Talib Kweli Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Reflection Eternal f/ Jay Electronica, J. Cole & Mos Def "Just Begun" (2010)

Album: Revolutions Per Minute
Producer: Hi-Tek
Label: Blacksmith Music / Rawkus Records / Warner Bros. Records

Talib Kweli: “I wanted to do a posse cut. I knew I wanted Yasiin on it and I knew I wanted Jay Electronica on it. But I hadn’t picked the beat. Me and Jay Electronica got in the studio and we went through beats and he picked that beat. He was like, ‘This is the one.’ So me and him rapped on it.

“I sent it to Yasiin and he said he was gonna get on it. But Yasiin’s schedule was hectic, he was doing a movie at the time. A month or two went by and he still hadn’t jumped on the record. I was like, ‘I don’t want it to be just me and Jay Electronica, the verses are too short. We need to get someone else on it.’

“So I was like, ‘Who’s an artist that people are most excited about?’ At that time, it was Drake. Drake had just signed to Young Money, he was really becoming prominent. But I didn’t know Drake. I didn’t have any outlets in how to get to him even though I was really a fan of his mixtape. So I first was thinking about getting Drake.

“But then I was like, ‘You know what? Drake is sort of on at this point. Who are people checking for, that’s not on, that I can really give an opportunity to? An artist that would just be fresher?’ And next in that line was J. Cole.

 

My curse in this business is always spotting dope rappers before anybody else cares about them. It’s like with Kanye—if I met Kanye when he was a way bigger artist, I may be more rich and famous. But I met him when no one was checking for him.

 

“I had one J. Cole mixtape, that’s it. I wasn’t as familiar with his music as some of his more diehard fans. But everything I heard from him was so ill. I knew he had just done something with 9th Wonder. I know 9th very well, so I knew I can get J. Cole easily.

“So I got J. Cole’s number. He hit me up and was like, ‘Yo, it’s an honor and a pleasure, I’ll come down right now.’ He came down, he laid his verse, he left. I was like, ‘Wow, that verse is incredible.’

“Then he came back two hours later, I didn’t call him, he just came back. He was like, ‘You know what I was thinking about it? I can do this verse better.’ And he laid another verse. I was about to put it out, and then at the last minute, Yasiin jumped on it.

“My curse in this business is always spotting dope rappers before anybody else cares about them. It’s like with Kanye—if I met Kanye when he was a way bigger artist, I may be more rich and famous. But I met him when no one was checking for him.

“It’s interesting, with the amount of people that are fans of J. Cole and Jay Electronica now, who just don’t know that record existed. I can tweet that record right now and people would go crazy like, ‘Oh my God is this new? This is crazy.’ But I mean, I’m being playful. I don’t really mean that as a bad thing. It’s a great thing.”

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