Talib Kweli performing at the 2012 Ilosaarirock festival.
|Birth name||Talib Kweli Greene|
October 3, 1975 |
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Labels||Javotti Media, EMI, Capitol (current)
Rawkus Records, Geffen, Blacksmith Records/Warner Bros. Records (former)
|Associated acts||Black Star, Curren$y, DeStorm Power, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, Madlib, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, Pharrell, Reflection Eternal, Res, The Roots|
Talib Kweli Greene (October 3, 1975) is an American rapper who performs under the name Talib Kweli. His first name, Talib (طالب), in Arabic means "student" or "seeker"; his middle name in Swahili means "true". Kweli earned recognition through his work in Black Star, a collaboration with fellow MC Mos Def.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Music career
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Politics and activism
- 5 Discography
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kweli grew up in a highly educated household in Park Slope. His mother, Brenda Greene, is an English professor at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York and his father an administrator at Adelphi University. His younger brother, Jamal Greene, is a professor of Constitutional Law at Columbia Law School, a graduate of Yale Law School, and former clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. As a youth, he was drawn to Afrocentric rappers, such as De La Soul and other members of the Native Tongues Posse whom he had met in high school. Talib Kweli was a student at Cheshire Academy, a boarding school in Connecticut. He was previously a student at Brooklyn Technical High School before being academically dismissed. He later studied experimental theater at New York University.
Early career (1995–2001)
Kweli made his underground debut in 1995, with featured five appearances on Doom, an album by Cincinnati, Ohio group Mood (Main Flow, Donte, Jahson). In Cincinnati, Kweli also met DJ Hi-Tek and the two collaborated on a few well received underground recordings as Reflection Eternal, including "Fortified Live" (1997), and "B-Boy Document 99/Chaos" (1999, featuring The High & Mighty). Shortly afterwards, upon returning to New York, he reconnected with Mos Def and formed Black Star. Kweli brought along Hi-Tek to produce their only album, 1998's Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star. The album, released amidst a late '90s renaissance of conscious, Afrocentric hip hop, was immediately hailed by critics and achieved modest mainstream success. When Kweli and Mos Def parted ways shortly thereafter, Kweli and Hi-Tek continued their Reflection Eternal partnership on the 2000 album Train of Thought, which was likewise met with critical acclaim, but modest sales.
Quality and The Beautiful Struggle (2002–04)
Following Train of Thought, Kweli and Hi-Tek split as well, and Kweli used his first truly solo debut to attempt a move toward a more mainstream sound. 2002's Quality accomplished this goal to some extent, featuring production by a host of different producers, including DJ Quik and Kanye West. Additionally, Dave Chappelle provided two features on Quality. The album was met with wide spread critical acclaim and received some mainstream attention thanks to the West-produced single "Get By" which peaked at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100. Quality peaked at #21 on the US Billboard 200 and at #6 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. In 2001, Kweli with Black Star partner Mos Def contributed to the Red Hot + Indigo compilation album created by the Red Hot Organization in tribute to Duke Ellington, that raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. Black Star collaborated with fellow artists John Patton and Ron Carter to record "Money Jungle." In 2002, Kweli contributed to the critically acclaimed Red Hot + Riot, a compilation CD created by the Red Hot Organization in tribute to the music and work of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. He collaborated with fellow hip-hop artists Dead Prez, Jorge Ben, and Bilal to remake the famous song by Fela Kuti, "Shuffering and Shmiling," for the CD.
In February 2004, Kweli also had a guest spot on Kanye West's widely successful debut album on the track "Get 'Em High". On April 7, 2004, Kweli was the musical guest on Chappelle's Show for the third and final time (his previous performances had been on February 5, 2003 and April 9, 2003, the latter as part of Black Star). In the summer of 2004, Talib Kweli, along with Bob Moore's Amazing Mongrels, supported the Beastie Boys on their "Challah At Your Boy World Tour", and appeared on a Dilated Peoples song called "Kindness for Weakness", (a live remix of which was later featured on the video game NBA Street Vol. 2). Also that summer, Kweli performed at Dave Chappelle's Block Party (both as a solo act and as one half of Black Star). In October 2004, along with Common and Questlove, Kweli contributed to Zap Mama's Ancestry in Progress (2004) with "Yelling Away."
In November 2004, he released his second solo album and final Rawkus release, The Beautiful Struggle, which debuted at #14 in the billboard top 100. Kweli responded to Jay-Z's 2003 record "Moment of Clarity" (on The Black Album, in which Jay-Z rapped: "If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli") in his own track "Ghetto Show" by stating "If lyrics sold then truth be told/I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay Z." Despite this nod, the album featured much more commercial production (including The Neptunes, Kanye West and Just Blaze) and although Kweli's lyrics retained their socio-political content, he affected a somewhat harder persona. The album failed to cross over into the mainstream and suffered a critical backlash. For example, Britt Robson of The Washington Post "Struggle" was a "frequently awkward, too-obvious bid to exploit the commercial buzz Jay-Z created."
BlackSmith Records, Liberation and Eardrum (2005–09)
In 2005, Kweli released a Mixtape-CD off of his newly formed Blacksmith Records. The project was called Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free Mix CD, a title which is considered likely a response to the criticism of The Beautiful Struggle. The musical offering was generally considered to be a mixtape. However, some people regard "Right About Now" as an official album because of its availability through commercial sites and its release of two singles. "Right About Now" also lacks the DJ overlays often accompanied by mixtapes which makes the CD read more like an official album. The album sold 16,000 copies in its first week of release, debuting at #113 on the Billboard 200. Sparking some controversy, on Right About Now Kweli sampled Ben Kweller's "In Other Words" for his own song "Ms. Hill". In part 7 of Kweller's video podcast series "One Minute Pop Song," Kweller said he found Kweli's use of the song "a little fucked up" due to the fact that it was sampled without permission. In a similar incident, Kweli reacted with outrage on Twitter when a verse from Fly Away was sampled in Peter Andre's track of the same name. Kweli stated, "I protect the integrity of my music like a grizzly protects cubs. Woe to those who actively stand in the way of that." Kweli has not publicly addressed his unauthorized use of Kweller's "In Other Words."
In 2006, Kweli signed a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records for Blacksmith Records. Warner Brothers launched an online community via Second Life for Kweli. In January, Kweli was featured in a commercial for the NCAA's Big Ten Conference, rapping about the league's basketball teams. In February 2006, Kweli provided the voice of the protagonist in the graffiti-themed video game Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. In October 2006, Kweli performed on MTV's Wild 'N Out, hosted by Nick Cannon. On December 31, 2006, Kweli released nine songs he recorded with acclaimed underground producer Madlib for free download in conjunction with the web site for Stones Throw Records, the label to which Madlib is signed. The album was entitled Liberation, of which Talib later was quoted by XXL Magazine as saying releasing the album was liberating to him; "The idea that I could put out an album like that: record it in my house, put it out for free and get that type of response." In 2007, the album was made available for purchase. In 2007 Kweli signed acclaimed rapper Jean Grae and the group Strong Arm Steady to Blacksmith Records. Also in 2007, Kweli released his third solo album, entitled Eardrum, which was released on August 21. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200. The first single was Listen!!!. Kweli embarked on a national Australian tour in October, 2007. "Eardrum", which featured a mix of mainstream and underground producers like Kanye West, Just Blaze, will.i.am, Nick Speed and Pete Rock, received generally favorable reviews and went on to sell 129,000 copies after four weeks. Also in 2007, Kweli released a mixtape containing rare and collaborative songs, entitled Focus. October saw Talib Kweli play one of China's earliest music festivals, the Yue Festival, organised by Split Works, alongside Faithless and Ozomatli.
In March 2008, Kweli was featured on MTV's TV show MADE as the coach of Colin Colt, a young man who wanted to be made into a rap star. Kweli was a featured artist on the 9th Wonder and Buckshot album "The Formula", released on April 29, 2008 (on the track "Hold It Down"). Kweli's Blacksmith Records split with Warner Bros. Records in December 2008. Kweli confirmed to AllHipHop.com that Warner Bros. would still distribute Reflection Eternal and Talib Kweli projects, but not other acts on the Blacksmith label. Kweli was featured at the fifth installment of Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg's acclaimed live interview series "Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg" on October 21, 2009. Kweli recorded an album entitled Party Robot with R&B singer Res and musician Graph Nobel under the group alias Idle Warship. The album was released as a free download on the website for Kweli's label Blacksmith with 2 different cover art options in late 2009. There were videos shot for two of the songs from the album: "Bedroom Lights" and "Black Snake Moan".
In February 2009 it was announced that Talib would be featured in the graphic novel-turned-animated series Blokhedz on Missiong.com, voicing the lead part of the character Blak. Additionally, Talib Kweli is a spokesperson and mentor for P'Tones Records a non-profit after school music program that's mission is "to create constructive opportunities for urban youth through no-cost music programs."
Reflection Eternal reunion and Gutter Rainbows (2010)
Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek released a second Reflection Eternal album titled Revolutions Per Minute on May 18, 2010. Revolutions per Minute was recorded at Electric Lady Studios. It is their second album after a 10-year hiatus. The album received generally positive reviews from most music critics, based on an aggregate score of 80/100 from Metacritic.
Gutter Rainbows, Kweli's fourth solo album, was the first to be released by his imprint Talibra. The album was originally intended to be released in only a digital format. However, on November 16, 2010, Duck Down Records announced its plans to offer Gutter Rainbows a CD release. This will include an import edition and a special edition with extras. In its first week, the album sold 13,900 copies in the United States. In December 2010, Talib Kweli appeared with Darryl McDaniels, Mix Master Mike and Ahmet Zappa on a cover of Frank Zappa's "Willie the Pimp" for The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAAAA Birthday Bundle 2010.
Prisoner of Conscious and Gravitas (2011-present)
Kweli has confirmed the title of his next album will be Prisoner of Conscious, a title derived from Talib's constant labeling as a "conscious rapper" and based on Nigerian reggae artist Majek Fashek's album "Prisoner of Conscience." Kweli began working on "Prisoner" before "Rainbows" was released, and put cuts that were originally intended for "Conscious" on "Rainbows". He also confirmed that he will reunite with MadLib to offer Liberation 2. Upon its May 7, 2013 release Prisoner of Conscious was met with generally favorable reviews from music critics, and debuted at number 48 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 10,000 copies in the United States.
Shortly after in August 2013, Kweli announced that in 2014 he will release his next studio album, Gravitas which will contain production from Q-Tip. However, on October 5, 2013, Kweli revealed that Gravitas would be released independently on December 15, 2013. He also revealed the cover artwork, and that the album would feature production by Q-Tip, Oh No, LordQuest, and Rich Kidd.
Politics and activism
Talib Kweli is known for his strong political views and activism, including on the topics of racial stereotypes and police brutality. Talib Kweli has stated that he would focus on the prison industrial complex if money wasn't a problem.
He refuses to vote and calls politics “an illusion.” He is an advocate on behalf of political prisoners and a supporter of community organizations like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He has spoken often to inner-city high schoolers and college students.
Kweli urged people to ask hip-hop artists questions in order to engage them politically, but warned not to get frustrated if artists do not “give you what you want” in their replies. He said that music artists bear an unfair burden to use their music as a platform because they have the ability to influence more people. Kweli mentions that artists, just like their audience, fall victim to their upbringing.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Talib Kweli stated that young people are the only people that can make a difference because they have the energy to actually go out to the public and do something. However, he stated his belief that activism cannot be done by just sitting at a computer.
Along with Mos Def, Kweli organized the Hip Hop for Respect CD and video in 2000, which spoke out against police brutality and specifically about the death of Amadou Diallo at the hands of New York City police. Profits from the CD were given to the Hip Hop For Respect Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encouraged celebrities to become involved with their fans. The Hip Hop For Respect contained 41 different artists for each shot that the police took at Diallo.
In May 2005, Kweli and Mos Def gathered with supporters at City Hall to demand that the federal government drop the million dollar bounty that was placed on political activist Assata Shakur's head and remove her from the terrorist watch list.
On August 7, 2013, Talib Kweli traveled to Tallahassee to spend a night in the capital building with the Dream Defenders, a group of students that created a sit-in at the Florida governor's office to protest the state's stand-your-ground law.
- Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star (with Mos Def as Black Star) (1998)
- Train of Thought (with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal) (2000)
- Quality (2002)
- The Beautiful Struggle (2004)
- Liberation (with Madlib) (2007)
- Eardrum (2007)
- Revolutions Per Minute (with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal) (2010)
- Gutter Rainbows (2011)
- Prisoner of Conscious (2013)
- Gravitas (2013)
- Rott, Ivan. "Talib Kweli". Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- "Talib Kweli Biography". musicianguide.com Musician Biographies. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Mood - Doom - at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Fortified Live - Reflection Eternal at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "B Boy Document at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Black Star Discography at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Westlund, Joshua (October 14, 1998). "Black Star: Black Star". City Pages. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Stewart, Allison (February 4, 2011). "You might not know Talib Kweli, but you should". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli - Train of Thought at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli - Quality at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli – Singles Charting at AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli Albums at AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "About - Red Hot Organization". Red Hot Organization. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Red Hot + Riot 2002". Red Hot Organization. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Various - Red Hot + Riot". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti [Vinyl] at Amazon". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Kanye West - The College Dropout at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Chappelle's Show (TV series 2003–2006) Episode #1.3". IMDB. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Chappelle's Show (TV series 2003–2006) Episode #1.12". IMDB. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Chappelle's Show (TV series 2003–2006) Episode #2.12". IMDB. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Marcus, Eva (July 28, 2004). "Beastie Boys Taking Talib Kweli On Tour In September". MTV. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Arzoian, Rebecca (February 24, 2006). "Peoples barely induce dilation". Yale Daily News. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Cast & Crew - In order of onscreen appearance and performance". Dave Chappelle's Block Party Official Website. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Zap Mama - Ancestry in Progress at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Robson, Britt (November 27, 2005). "Talib Kweli, Selling Himself Short". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "The Beautiful Struggle - Talib Kweli at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Harris, Chris (November 30, 2005). "System Of A Down Make It A Double With Chart-Topping Hypnotize". MTV. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "One Minute Pop Song by Ben Kweller". Youtube. September 11, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli gets riled up about stolen verse, forgets that time he stole a verse". TheMusicNetwork. October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
- "Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Music Splits With Warner Bros.". Okayplayer. December 30, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- "Warner Bros. Records/Blacksmith Launches Virtual Community for Talib Kweli". DjBooth.net. October 31, 2006. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- "Power Rankings: Michigan St. Spartans (11-2)". Sports Illustrated. January 6, 2006. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Saltzman, Marc (February 24, 2006). "Review:Graffiti game fresh and fun". CNN. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- "Nick Cannon Presents: Wild 'N Out " After Shows". MTV. October 5, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Stones Throw 10 Year Anniversary Tour". SF Station. October 19, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Madlib at Stones Throw". Stones Throw Records. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Big Dog Status by Thomas Golianopoulos. XXL Magazine. January 2008. Page 82.
- "Liberation - Talib Kweli and Madlib at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Chinen, Nate (December 1, 2008). "A Hip-Hop Classicist Defies Her Meager Turnout". New York Times. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Clark, Kevin (November 14, 2005). "Jean Grae: The Jeanius". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Artists". Year of the Blacksmith (TalibKweli.com). Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Eardrum at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Eardrum at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Ewing, Aliya (September 26, 2007). "Hip Hop Album Sales: Week Ending 9/23/07". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- "Focus (Import) on Amazon". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
-  (http). spli-t.com (2007). Retrieved on 2012-15-08
- "MADE (Season 8) | Ep. 13 Rapper: Colin". MTV. March 19, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "9th Wonder & Buckshot - The Formula - Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Saint Louis, Tai (December 29, 2008). "Talib Kweli's Blacksmith Music Splits With Warner Bros.". AllHipHop.com. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- Ortiz, Edwin (December 30, 2008). "Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Label Splits with Warner Brothers Records". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli Reflects on Career at Noisemakers Event (With Exclusive Video)". XXL Magazine. October 22, 2009.
- Langhorne, Cyrus (February 11, 2009). "Talib Kweli gives "Reflection Eternal II" UPDATE". Souls of Hip-Hop. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Ortiz, Edwin (November 19, 2009). "DX News Bits: Eternia, Idle Warship". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Talib Kweli’s Idle Warship – Bedroom lights". Rothstein.com. December 8, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Idle Warship (Talib Kweli + Res)". Hip Hop DX. November 26, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "We’re on a Mission, G.". Blokhedz.TV. February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "DJ Khalil + Talib Kweli working on Blokhedz ACT II". Vimeo. August 19, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "P Tones Records - Spokespersons". P Tones Records. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Revolutions per Minute (2010): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- J-23. "Talib Kweli To Release "Gutter Rainbows" On January 25, 2011". Hip Hop DX. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- Rodriguez, Jayson. "Talib Kweli Talks Gutter Rainbows: 'The Music Industry Doesn't Exist'". MTV. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- "Nicki Minaj Surpasses Kanye in Overall Sales". XXL Magazine. February 2, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- "Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 5/12/2013". HipHopDX. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
- Eskridge, Sonya (May 11, 2009). "Talib Kweli ties the knot". Sister 2 Sister. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
- Neal, Mark Anthony (November 12, 2004). "TALIB KWELI'S BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE". Pop Matters. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- Chideya, Farai (August 21, 2007). "Talib Kweli Hitting Your 'Eardrum'". NPR. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
- "Islam and Hip Hop: Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes, Manifest ONE and Talib Kweli". YouTube. September 30, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Jake Paine (August 21, 2007). "Talib Kweli: Say Something". AllHipHop.com. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- "Talib Kweli". Fishrr. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Melissa Locker (June 19, 2013). "Talib Kweli". Time Magzine. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Jeff Chang (October 2005). "An Uplifting Voice of Hip-Hop". Progressive Magazine. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Seamus McKiernan (June 1, 2012). "Talib Kweli". TheHuffingtonPost. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Yvonne Bynoe (2004). Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture. Soft Skull. ISBN 978-1932360103.
- Hillary Crosley (May 25, 2005). "Talib Kweli fight Activist". Viacom International. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Eric Sundermann (October 7, 2011). "Talib Kweli at Occupy Wall Street". Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- Kelly Virella (October 1, 2012). "Talib Kweli Speaks out against Stop and Frisk". Dominion of New York. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- AJ Vicens (August 26, 2013). "Interview Talib Kweli". Mother Jones. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Talib Kweli|