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Talib Kweli

Talib performing in Brooklyn, 2008.
Background information
Birth name Talib Kweli Greene
Born October 3, 1975 (1975-10-03) (age 34)[1]
Origin Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Alternative hip hop
Occupations Rapper, Singer
Years active 1997–present
Labels Rawkus Records
Blacksmith Records / Warner Bros. Records (2005-Present)
Associated acts Black Star, Reflection Eternal, DJ Hi-Tek, Res, Mos Def, The Roots, Idle Warship, Kanye West, MF DOOM, Rakim, Immortal Technique, Jean Grae, Common, UGK, Smif-n-Wessun

Talib Kweli Greene (born October 3, 1975)[1], better known as Talib Kweli, is an African-American emcee from Brooklyn, New York. His first name in Arabic means "student" or "seeker"; his middle name in Swahili means "truth". Kweli first gained recognition through Black Star, a collaboration with fellow MC Mos Def.



Early life

Born in Brooklyn (Red Hook), 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[2] and his father a sociology professor. His younger brother, Jamal Greene, is a professor of Constitutional Law at Columbia Law School. Greene was raised as a Shia Muslim and practices till this day. 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 also a student at Brooklyn Technical High School, before he was kicked out. He later studied experimental theater at New York University (NYU).[3]

Early career (1997-2001)

Kweli made his professional debut in 1997, with featured 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. Shortly afterwards, upon returning to New York, he reconnected with Mos Def and formed Black Star. Kweli brought along Hi-Tek to produce their first and 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.

Start of solo career (2002-2003)

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 extensions, featuring production by a host of different producers, including DJ Quik and Kanye West. The album was met with wide spread critical acclaim and received some mainstream attention thanks to the West-produced single "Get By."

Rise in cultural popularity

In 2004, Talib Kweli, along with Bob Moore's Amazing Mongrels, supported the Beastie Boys on their "Challah At Your Boy World Tour", and appeared in a few Dilated Peoples songs, including a live remix later featured on the video game NBA Street Vol. 2.

Along with Common and ?uestlove, he contributed to Zap Mama's Ancestry in Progress (2004) with "Yelling Away."

Kweli has used television appearances extensively to increase visibility, notably on MTV's Wild 'N Out, and several performances on Chappelle's Show with long-time collaborator Mos Def; these performances were a product of host Chappelle's friendship with Kweli. Chappelle in turn participated in a number of skits on Kweli's albums "Train of Thought" and "Quality"- impersonating several people including Nelson Mandela. Kweli also had a guest spot on Kanye West's widely successful debut album on the track "Get 'Em High". West has produced some of Kweli's songs, including his biggest commercial hit "Get By". West also includes a nod to Kweli on the song "Breathe in, Breathe Out" from his album "The College Dropout". The lyrics read: "Golly more of this bullshit ice rap/ I got to 'pologize to Mos and Kweli", an acknowledgement of Kweli's meaningful message spread while part of Blackstar. Kweli can be seen in a commercial for the NCAA's Big Ten Conference, rapping about the league's basketball teams.[4] He also provided the voice of the protagonist in the graffiti-themed video game Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, released in 2006.[5]

Talib and fellow rapper artist Mos Def purchased Nkiru, which is Brooklyn's oldest black-owned bookstore, and converted it into the Nkiru Center for Education and Culture.[6][7]

Kweli's stature continued to grow, particularly fueled by a line from the track "Moment of Clarity" on Jay-Z's 2003 record, The Black Album: "If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli." Kweli responded to this in his track "Ghetto Show" on his 2004 album The Beautiful Struggle by stating "If lyrics sold then truth be told/I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay Z."

Middle career (2004-2006)

In 2004, he released his second solo album and final Rawkus release, The Beautiful Struggle, which debuted at no.14 in the billboard top 100. The album featured much more commercial production, 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.

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.

On Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free Mix CD, Talib 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.[8]

Recent career (2007-2008)

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 stating 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."[9] In 2007, the album was made available for purchase.

For his newest release, Kweli formed his own record label, Blacksmith Records, and has recently signed acclaimed rapper Jean Grae and the group Strong Arm Steady. He also signed a new distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records for Blacksmith Records. His latest solo album is called Eardrum and was released on Aug 21, 2007. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200. The first single was Listen!!!.[9]

Kweli embarked on a national Australian tour in October, 2007. In 2007, a bootleg import CD containing rare and collaborative songs was released entitled Focus. Recently Talib has joined MTV's hit show MADE and filmed an episode in the small town of Arlington, Massachusetts, as well as SMT Studios in New York City. He was the coach of Colin Colt, a young man who wanted to be made into a rap star.

In a rockumentary, Call+Response, headed by Justin Dillon, Kweli performed "Broken Glass" in support of the film's cause: a movement against slavery and human trafficking.[2]

Kweli also collaborated on the new song "Rocket Experience" by Buzz Aldrin with Snoop Dogg, and others.

Future projects (2009-present)

Kweli confirmed in a recent interview with VIBE magazine that the title of his next album will be Prisoner of Consciousness, 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."[citation needed]

Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek have both said they are recording a second Reflection Eternal album which will be a follow-up to Train of Thought.[10][11] The album is to be called Revolutions Per Minute and is planned to be released in April 2010.

In March 2008, Kweli was featured on the 9th Wonder and Buckshot track "Hold It Down".

Talib is currently recording a collaborative album titled Party Robot with R&B singer Res and musician Graph Nobel under the group alias Idle Warship. They have released one song, "Industry Diary" from the upcoming project.

In February 2009 it was announced that Talib would be featured in the graphic novel-turned-animated series Blokhedz on, voicing the lead part of the character Blak.[12][13]

Talib will also be the featured guest at the fifth installment of Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg's acclaimed live interview series "Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg." Talib joins a distinguished list of previous guests including DJ Premier, ?uestlove of The Roots, Q-Tip and Raekwon. Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg featuring Talib Kweli will take place at 92YTribeca on October 21, 2009.

Personal life

Talib Kweli married DJ Eque on May 9, 2009 in Bel Air, California. [14]



With Mos Def as Black Star

With Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal

With Madlib


  1. ^ a b Rott, Ivan. "Talib Kweli". Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  2. ^ Tsukayama, Hayley (July 10, 2009) "Hip-hop with honors". Star Tribune
  3. ^ Talib Kweli Biography - Discography, Music, Lyrics, Album, CD, Career, Famous Works, and Awards
  4. ^ "Power Rankings: Michigan St. Spartans (11-2)". Sports Illustrated. January 6, 2006. 
  5. ^ "Review:Graffiti game fresh and fun". CNN. February 24, 2006. 
  6. ^ "Acclaimed Hip-Hop Artist Talib Kweli Named Black History Month Keynote Speaker at Holy Cross". Holy Cross College. February 1, 2005. 
  7. ^ "HPD - Homebuyers - New York City Neighborhoods - Prospect heights, Brooklyn". The City of New York: Department of Housing Preservation and Development. 
  8. ^ Ben Kweller's One Minute Pop Song: Episode 7
  9. ^ a b Big Dog Status by Thomas Golianopoulos. XXL Magazine. January 2008. Page 82.
  10. ^ "Talib Kweli Playing It By Ear; Says New Reflection Eternal LP Is In Motion". September 28, 2007. 
  11. ^ Talib Kweli Confirms Reflection Eternal Reunion Album | Hip Hop News >
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ [1]

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Talib Kweli (born Talib Kweli Greene on October 3, 1975) is an American rapper from Brooklyn, New York.



Blackstar (1998)

  • At exactly which point do you start to realize,
    that life without knowledge is death in disguise?
    • "K.O.S. (Determination)" (track 8)
  • We played against each other like puppets, swearing you got pull
    When the only pull you got is the wool over your eyes
    Getting knowledge in jail like a blessing in disguise
    Look in the skies for god, what you see besides the smog
    Is broken dreams flying away on the wings of the obscene.
    • "Respiration" (track 11)
  • Creating crime rates to fill the new prisons they build
    Over money and religion theres more blood that spills
    Like the wounds of slaves in cotton fields that never heal
    Whats the deal?
    • "Thieves in the Night" (track 12)

Reflection Eternal (2000)

  • These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain,
    Like slaves on a ship talking about who's got the flyest chain
    • "Africa Dream" (track 8)
  • Persistance, dedication
    Consistent, motivation,
    resistance to stagnation of information,
    distribute it free to the entire population
    No hesitation, makin it public
    No privitazation from corporations
    • "Name of the Game" (track 10)
  • These niggas ain't thugs, the real thugs is the government.
    Don't matter if you're Independent, Democrat or Republican
    • "Ghetto Afterlife" (track 11)

Quality (2002)

  • Niggas with knowledge are more dangerous than niggas with guns.
    They make the guns easy to get and try to keep niggas dumb
    • "The Proud" (track 11)
  • We commute through computers.
    Spirits stay mute while our ego spread rumors.
    We're survivalists turned to consumers
    • "Get By" (track 3)
  • Spit bars you can't touch, like tits in strip bars, get scarred, I drop hits to hit hard
    • "Waiting for the DJ" (track 6)

The Beautiful Struggle (2004)

  • Fuck the harder way,
    I'm doing it the smarter way
    • "Going Hard" (track 1)
  • Those who would trade in their freedom
    For their protection deserve neither
    • "Going Hard" (track 1)
  • Yo, I heard it's said the revolution won't be televised
    But in the land of milk and honey there's a date you gotta sell it by
    Otherwise it just expires and spoils
    and these folks jump out the pot when the water too hot
    • "Beautiful Struggle" (track 13)
  • Life is a beautiful struggle
    People search through the rubble for a suitable hussle
    Some people using their noodle
    Some people using their muscle
    Some people put it all together make it fit like a puzzle
    • "I try"

Singles and compilations

  • Back in the day they stole our smile, so we clothe our teeth in gold.
    • "The Manifesto", Lyricist Lounge, Vol. 1 (1998)
  • Hip-Hop's last hope like Obi-Wan Kenobi
    Through your television I'm shining light like a train
    Comin out like earthworms when it rains, bringing it
    like the C.I.A. be bringing in crack cocaine bailing out of planes
    with the George Bush connections, I push Reflection
    like I'm selling izm, like a dealer building the system
    Supply and the demand it's all just capitalism
    Niggaz don't sell crack cause they like to see blacks smoke
    Niggaz sell crack cause they broke
    • "The Manifesto", Lyricist Lounge, Vol. 1 (1998)
  • Learn how to heal yourself and stop fucking with them hospitals
    • "Sharp Shooters", Lyricist Lounge, Vol. 2 (2000)

External links

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