Talib Kweli can easily be crowned as one of Brooklyn’s finest mc’s. For years the industry veteran has championed positive portrayals of urban society through his eternally omniscient lyrics. After the critical and commercial success on Black Star, Kweli, alongside “Ms. Fat Booty” himself, Mos Def, forced record labels to pay closer attention to underground Hip-Hop. Before the Internet, an underground artist struggled immensely without the help of perpetual touring. Needless to say, the crowned emcee puts on a concert better than blueberry pancakes and mimosas on a breezy Sunday morning. He takes “hip-hop live” to a whole new level. Check out this EXCLUSIVE footage of Talib and long time collaborator Hi-Tek putting it down last week in Austin, TX at SXSW to a live band and a packed house.
I caught up with Talib and asked him ten simple questions. We chopped it up about the upcoming Reflection Eternal: Train of Thought II album -- one of the most anticipated albums of '09 -- Blacksmith artist Jean Grae, Strong Arm Steady, his collaboration with R&B singer Res, and the possibility of a Black Star Reunion.
What makes a good emcee?
TK: A good mc understands that the crowd is king. His job is to move them.
How did you discover the mic?
TK: I love poetry, and hip-hop is a way to be a cool poet. I get a rush expressing feeling we all have that only I have words for, ever since I was 10 years old.
In this day and age with “Internet Sensations” how does an emcee with longevity (like yourself) reinvent himself to keep up with the steadily evolving music machine?
TK: The key to staying relevant is embracing change, embracing the new. When someone comes with a new way to get into this business, I don't hate. I take notes.
If there are two sides to every coin, has the Internet hurt game?
TK: The Internet may have hurt the music business, but it has helped musicians.
Being signed to a major label doesn’t have the same ring it used to. Do you think there is a possibility for rectification?
TK: Being signed to a major is not as fresh as it used to be because the majors have no idea what they are doing and they are all equal. It is about what you bring to the table at this point. Record deals are nothing more than glorified loans at this point.
I read an interview a few years back in Vibe Magazine, where Shanel Odum asked the question, “Do you feel any pressure or limitations with being labeled a conscious hip hop artist or righteous rapper?” Your answer was no. Do you still have the same sentiment?
TK: I am not limited by the way I rap and my subject matter. If anything, it has opened doors for me other mc’s will never see.
How did you link up with one of my personal favorites R&B singer Res?
TK: Res used to be managed by my manager Corey Smyth and now she is one of my best friends. She has been on all my albums, and now we are in a group with Graph Nobel called Idle Warship.
For those that don’t know, who is Jean Grae?
TK: Jean Grae is one of the best MCs you’ve ever heard, period. For more info go to www.yearoftheblacksmith.com.
I’m hyped to hear you’re back in the studio with producer Hi-Tek; when does the album Reflection Eternal: Train of Thought II drop and what can we expect?
TK: The Reflection Eternal album drops this summer, and it is very exciting, better than the first.
Should we stop asking about the possibility of a Black Star reunion?
TK: Black Star will happen when the time is right. For now, I'm focused on the Reflection album. Pay attention to Strong Arm Steady. Their new episode of Blacksmith TV is up at www.yearoftheblacksmith.com.
For more Talib Kweli, check out this performance & interview video from his in-store at Amoeba Hollywood on 8/20/2007:
'Till next time...chew the corners off.