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Talib Kweli

If skills sold, Talib Kweli would have been one of the most commercially successful rappers of his time. As it was, however, the earnest MC became one of the most critically successful rappers of his time, which dawned in the late '90s when he rapped alongside Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek as part of the group Black Star. This trio of up-and-comers and their widely acclaimed self-titled 1998 album debut, Black Star, helped make Rawkus Records one of the premier underground rap outposts of the late '90s. Kweli and Hi-Tek then collaborated as a duo on Reflection Eternal (2000), which firmly established them apart from Mos Def, who had gone solo. For a moment there, Kweli and his Rawkus associates seemed like a full-fledged movement -- a return to the sort of hip-hop associated with the so-called golden age. However, it wasn't to be. Rawkus somehow lost its momentum, and its roster sadly dispersed, leaving Kweli on his own to carry the torch. He continued his output, beginning with a proper solo debut, Quality (2002), and though he didn't rack up towering sales numbers, he remained a critical favorite. In fact, he was one of the most admired and respected rappers on the major-label circuit during the mid-2000s, best evidenced by Jay-Z's famous Black Album rhyme: "If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli."

Born in Brooklyn as the eldest of two sons born to college professors, Kweli's first name, Talib, is an Arabic name meaning "the seeker or student," while his last name is a Ghanaian name meaning "of truth or knowledge." He began developing his literary gift in elementary school, when he'd write short stories, poems, and that sort of stuff. It wasn't until years later in high school that he turned to hip-hop as an outlet for his self-expression. There in high school he met a young Dante Smith, better known today as Mos Def. This fateful meeting further drew Kweli toward hip-hop, and another fateful meeting further convinced him that he had a bright future as an MC. During a 1994 trip to Cincinnati he met Tony Cottrell, aka DJ Hi-Tek, who at the time was part of a local rap group called Mood. Kweli impressed Hi-Tek during their time together, and the DJ invited the MC to guest on several tracks for Mood's 1997 album Doom. Shortly afterward, Kweli and Hi-Tek formed a partnership as Reflection Eternal and recorded "Fortified Live," which a then-fledging Rawkus label released on its first Soundbombing compilation.

A year later in 1998, the two invited Mos Def into the mix, and the Black Star album resulted. And with it came a steady downpour of critical acclaim that turned these guys into media darlings overnight. They might not have sold millions of albums, but Kweli, Hi-Tek, and Mos Def most certainly impressed a great many people, among them critics, fellow rap artists, and a lot of folks who enjoyed a good old-fashioned hip-hop album with an emphasis on beats, rhymes, and life -- not dramatized gunplay or interpolations of proven pop songs. That was the end of Black Star, however. In 1999 Mos Def released his debut solo album, Black on Both Sides, and turned away from music and toward an acting career, leaving Kweli and Hi-Tek on their own. The duo returned to their Reflection Eternal partnership and released an album of the same name in 2000. It spawned a pair of minor hits: "Move Somethin'" and "The Blast."

When Kweli returned with his Quality album in 2002, things had changed a bit. For one, he was truly solo. Mos Def was long gone, and Hi-Tek was off focusing on his own solo career as a for-hire producer. So Quality featured Kweli collaborating with a host of different artists, among them a young and promising yet still largely unknown producer named Kanye West. "Get By" was the fruit of Kweli's collaboration with West, and it became the rapper's biggest hit to date, aided quite a bit by a non-album remix featuring Jay-Z of all people. The remix got a lot of radio play, but still, Quality didn't put up Jay-Z numbers and Kweli remained a critical favorite, a reputation cemented all the more in late 2003 when Jigga gave him the aforementioned high-profile shoutout in "Moment of Clarity."

All of this set the stage very well for The Beautiful Struggle, which dropped in fall 2004. The expectations for the album were gargantuan because of the Jay-Z rhyme, and also because a great many hip-hop disciples felt Kweli was long overdue for a commercial breakthrough. The album was undoubtedly his most commercial effort to date, featuring a few token radio-ready hook singers like Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton, not to mention a roster of hitmaking producers like the Neptunes, Just Blaze, and Kanye. It was also Kweli's most self-conscious to date, however, as it was well apparent that the commercial pressures had begun to affect his mindset. He responded by splitting from his distributor, Universal, and lying low for a while, releasing a stopgap mixtape, Right About Now (2005), via Koch.

In anticipation of his next solo album, Kweli collaborated with producer Madlib on the digital-only Liberation, which was made available as a free download during the first week of 2007 on the Stones Throw website. Finally, in August of that same year, Kweli issued the full-length album Eardrum on his own label, Blacksmith, via a partnership with Warner Bros. Debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 and selling about 60,000 copies in its first week, Eardrum was Kweli's best-selling album to date and featured beats from not only Madlib but also Hi-Tek, Kanye, Pete Rock, and will.i.am, among others, and featured guests like Norah Jones, UGK, Justin Timberlake, and Strong Arm Steady. In 2010, the album Reflection Eternal: Revolutions Per Minute reunited Talib and Hi-Tek under their Reflection Eternal moniker, then that same year, the solo Gutter Rainbows was the first album to be released by Talib's Talibra imprint. His 2013 release Prisoner of Conscious balanced radio-friendly numbers with more abstract tracks and featured Nelly, Curren$y, and Kendrick Lamar. The 2014 effort Gravitas followed the same path, this time with Big K.R.I.T., Mike Posner, and writer Neil Gaiman among its guests. A year later he returned with Indie 500, a collaborative album with underground producer 9th Wonder. ~ Jason Birchmeier
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Gravitas (Explicit)

1. Inner Monologue

2. Demonology (Feat. Big K.R.I.T. & Gary Clark Jr.)

3. State Of Grace (Feat. Abby Dobson)

4. Violations (Feat. Raekwon)

5. Rare Portraits

6. New Leaders (Feat. The Under Achievers)

7. The Wormhole

8. What's Real (Feat. Res)

9. Art Imitates Life (Feat. Black Thought, Rah Digga & Albe. Back)

10. Lover's Peak

11. Colors Of You (Feat. Mike Posner)

x

Track List: Prisoner Of Conscious

1. Intro

2. Human Mic

3. Turnt Up

7. Hold It Now

8. Push Thru

9. Hamster Wheel

10. Delicate Flowers

13. Upper Echelon

x

Track List: Eardrum (Explicit)

1. Everything Man

2. My Weather Report

3. Hostile Gospel, Pt. 1 (Deliver Us)

4. Say Something

5. Country Cousins

6. Holy Moly

7. Eat To Live

8. In The Mood

9. Soon The New Day

10. Give 'em Hell

11. More Or Less

12. Stay Around

13. Hot Thing

14. Space Fruit (Interlude)

15. Perfect Beat

16. Oh My Stars

17. Listen!!!

18. Go With Us

19. Hostile Gospel, Pt. 2 (Deliver Me)

20. Nature

x

Track List: Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free Mix CD (Explicit)

1. Right About Now

2. Drugs, Basketball And Rap

3. Who Got It

4. Fly That Knot

5. Ms. Hill

6. Flash Gordon

7. Supreme Supreme

8. The Beast

9. Roll Off Me

10. Rock On

11. Where You Gonna Run

12. Two And Two

x

Track List: The Beautiful Struggle (Explicit)

1. Going Hard

2. Back Up Offa Me

3. Broken Glass

4. We Know

5. A Game

6. I Try

7. Around My Way

8. We Got The Beat

9. Work It Out

10. Ghetto Show

11. Black Girl Pain

12. Never Been In Love

13. Beautiful Struggle

x

Track List: Quality (Explicit)

1. Keynote Speaker

2. Rush

3. Get By

4. Shock Body

5. Gun Music

6. Waitin For The DJ

7. Joy

8. Talk To You (Lil Darlin')

9. Guerrilla Monsoon Rap

10. Put It In The Air

11. The Proud

12. Where Do We Go

13. Stand To The Side

14. Good To You

15. Won't You Stay

x

Track List: Art Imitates Life (Single)

1. Art Imitates Life

2. One Two

x

Track List: Beautiful (Single)

1. Beautiful

x

Track List: Come Here (Single)

x

Track List: Gutter Rainbows

1. After the Rain

2. Gutter Rainbows

3. So Low

4. Palookas (feat. Sean Price)

5. Mr. International (feat. Nigel Hall)

6. I'm On One

7. Wait For You (feat. Kendra Ross)

8. Ain't Waiting (feat. Outasight)

9. Cold Rain

10. Friends & Family

11. Tater Tot

12. How You Love Me (feat. Blaq Toven)

13. Uh Oh (feat. Jean Grae)

14. Self Savior (feat. Chace Infinite)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Blackstar album is still dope! Almost forgotten nowadays which is sad.
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"soon the new day" .. Such a nice song from Kweli .. I listened in that good zone the lyrics and that s**t is sweet butter man !!
Very good references .. Kweli got the brains to do songs like that .. That's why I liked him a lot once I realized that Reflection Eternal album is extremely special for HH.
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Much love Talib
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Talib Kweli has and is still underrated, one of today's consistent MC's still out today!
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CAribbean music
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��✌
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Talib is easiest the BEST rapper nowadays. To me, no other.
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qmtolman
I Love Get By
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hispmech
Simply right .
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Kicked,f
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Jamba,fm
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'McMahon
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We the s**t consider the facts
Nd After you analyze that you best to fall back~T.Kweli Rap Games Guinness
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Who is talib kweli?.
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ME AND MY 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER'S FAVORITE RAPPER! GET BY WAS THE FIRST SONG MY OLDEST DAUGHTER EVER LEARNED! MY G.O.A.T
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Its all u niggass is kilaas how u writ e ur rrecorddss fuckk new hippie hopp musikk
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Positive n nice like always!!
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Eardrum is a really good album.
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a.smith079
When real hip hop educated to believe in the truth ������
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Omg, has it really come to this?
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Man its all in his name truth seeker...he can't and will never put out bullshit for us....
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Talib the best lyrically period!
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neejiah
The struggle real baby just to get by I hope Lord this life is more than getting by!
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Kweli!!! When hip hop was alive
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Luv this song...
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I remember this, played it out. Ride out radio with BUPP
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Mailk
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boofy775
NAH. You JUSTice cause ios people be poisonous
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@ricolewisky It's chill but not nasty. I'm listening to Hot Thing right now and it's way nastier.
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calihartsch8
Don't read!!! This really works!!! On the nearest possible Friday you will be kissed by the love of ur life. Post this on five other songs in 143 minutes. However, if u fail you will die in two days. After your done type f6 and your loves name will appear on ur screen.
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Get By....my jam especially right now! Much love Talib Kweli
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One of my favorite lyricist.... a n d you like him then you would love K-Rino.
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if youlike kweli you may like dyme def
check em out
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kushina337
Ms Hill got skill dope as f**k
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bill
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Dope
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his flow is sick, hes dope asf
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TWO-TWO
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Don't get no better! !!!
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Now that's what I call rap!
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Talib Kweli is so underated. The brother is so...so talented!!!
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I'm a bigger fan
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Yes
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ricolewisky - AGREED!
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Yo who is this person
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sdwe
Talib is the TRUTH!
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GEORGE FOREMAN !...... SHOTSOUT WATTS CALI
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One of the last true hip hop artists for real. Kweli goes deep and spits fire.
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Delm donde i like your music
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Rollerblade
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