Talib Kweli is an MC's MC. On "Moment of Clarity" Jay-Z name-checked him as the ultimate example of lyrical quality: "If skills sold/Truth be told/I'd probably be/Lyrically/Talib Kweli." But as dope as he is, many casual rap fans are unaware of his vast body of work.
Last month, Complex included him on our list of 25 Hip-Hop Artists People Think Are One-Hit Wonders (But Totally Aren't) because Kweli is probably best known for his 2003 Kanye West–produced hit single "Get By." Kweli may not have had many more Billboard hits, but true hip-hop heads know he's got an illustrious catalog—both as a solo act and as a member of Reflection Eternal with Hi-Tek, and Black Star with Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey).
The duo still does shows together all the time—in fact they're playing the Bonnaroo Festival today. So it seemed a good time to get on the horn with the Brooklyn MC to find out the stories behind the making of his classic cuts.
He told us how there's a huge mistake in his verse for Kanye West's "Get 'Em High," how Lyor Cohen blocked the release of the "Get By (Remix)," and why he and Hi-Tek didn't speak for two years after releasing the first Reflection Eternal album. Plus he claimed that DJs refused to play his song "Waiting For The DJ" because Bilal sounded "too gay," he reflected on his classic line "Always got something to say like a Okayplayer Hater," and how his label wanted him to change his name after 9/11.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)