Talib Kweli has been a hip hop/Brooklyn representative for a minute. Arriving on the block with co-host Mos Def, who formed the Black Star duo as well has another dynamic tandem with Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek, Kweli made a name for himself lyrically, and rapidly garnered that hard-earned respect from the hip hop community. He’s also had his share of ups and downs after the release of a decent Quality album. Talib then dropped the Beautiful Struggle which didn’t receive the critically acclaimed review that may have been expected.
With his recent effort Eardrum and his former internet album Liberation, in which he collaborated with the enigmatic producer/emcee Madlib, Kweli is a name that has resurfaced in the barbershops. When asked about the purpose of this album Kweli stated, “I wanted to make something that would focus on my musical talents.” The BK emcee has always felt he’s had the respect lyrically, but for whatever reason people get caught up with Talib’s persona and not with what he does behind the mic. “We’re selling pieces of our soul; it’s the personality we’re marketing. We’re not marketing the music at all.”
Critics and fans alike believe that some of Kweli’s best work was done with Hi-Tek, and on Eardrum the track “More or Less” proves that point ten-fold. When asked if he was going to ever do another project with the Natti producer who is also coming out with Hi-Tek Volume III, the quick tongued lyricist gave a firm, “Yes!” He elaborated saying that’s definitely something he wants to make happen.
Kweli is also known to be one of the outspoken leaders of our generation. Whether it’s working with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, being part owner with Mos Def of Nkiru Bookstore which is Brooklyn’s oldest Black owned bookstore or Black August, his presence has strongly been felt in the hip hop community and the community of color at large. When asked about the recent mumblings around the Jena Six regarding the photos that were blasted all over MySpace and YouTube displaying the teens flaunting money that was quote un quote used for their defense fund, Kweli was quick to support the individuals. “Those dudes are young dudes from Louisiana who must be influenced by popular culture, and that’s what young people do when they get money.” Attesting that their actions were based on their youth, Talib also mentioned not to believe everything with the naked eye.
It’s well known that many of us were introduced to the world-famous, internationally known Kanye West by him being allowed on tour with Talib. In a way West, who recently lost his adored mother Ms. Donde West (R.I.P.), went on to do bigger things on a grander scale. West has now reciprocated the gesture by allowing Kweli access to new fans, who have yet to hear his lyrical talents. “I think it’s great I can work with a Kanye West who can go on and do big-huge things in this business, and he can bring me on tour and bring his fans to me. That’s when I know we’re doing something right.”
Taking on a new endeavor, Kweli is founder and CEO of the Blacksmith label which currently contains the likes of Philly’s own Jean Grae and Cali’s Strong Arm Steady. With guidance and direction from long time colleague Corey Smyth, they did what Kweli felt Geffen couldn’t or wasn’t doing. “…Geffen, the label we were on, wasn’t doing their job, and they didn’t have any interest in doing their job, and so we had to take the reigns.”
Taking the reigns is something Talib Kweli makes look very easy. With a solid team and with hungry artists who are also ready to take control of their respective lanes, Blacksmith is soon to be a label that many people will want to be a part of, and soon we will all be subject to the movement.