The full range of Ben Harper's influences would not come to bear until later albums, but his debut, Welcome to the Cruel World, lays a strong foundation. "Like a King" and "Take That Attitude to Your Grave" burn with a political conviction rarely heard during the 1990s. "Forever" has a tenderness which demonstrates Harper's emotional range. Lackluster hippie jams that cultivated his early following may have served a purpose but feel fluffy by comparison when compared to the meatier tracks. Ben closes the album with a song that frequently closes his concerts, "I'll Rise." This song, built around Maya Angelou's 1979 poem "And Still I Rise," reminds one of art's ability to pierce through society, self, and the soul.
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AllMusic Review by Ryan Randall Goble