Talib Kweli Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Reflection Eternal "Manifesto" (1998)

Album: Lyricist Lounge, Volume One
Producer: Hi-Tek
Label: Rawkus Records

Talib Kweli: “That was something that Hi-Tek and I created for the specific purpose of being on the Lyricist Lounge. Everyone agreed that we needed to be on that album and we didn’t have a song that we had recorded that would fit. Rawkus paid for us to get in the studio and create a song and that’s the one we came up with.

“That record ended up defining me as an MC a lot. That record was the first people really heard me just by myself and really got into it. That record, ‘The 10 Point Program,’ is something that really resonated with people.

“I look at that as truthfully my first real solo single. That was the first time people were like, ‘Yo, who is this kid?’ Even on Black Star it was still like ‘he’s Yasiin Bey’s homeboy.’ But ‘Manifesto’ established me as my own artist.

 

The perception [of being Mos Def’s homeboy] is something that still goes on to this day. My track record speaks infinite volumes against that perception but there’s still people who were fans back then who have never let that go. I think it’s because Yasiin is such a charismatic artist—such a pure spirit.

 

“The perception [of being Mos Def’s homeboy] is something that still goes on to this day. My track record speaks infinite volumes against that perception but there’s still people who were fans back then who have never let that go. I think it’s because Yasiin is such a charismatic artist—such a pure spirit.

“I’ve become a better musician, but in my early days, in order to get into what I was doing, you had to really be existing and participating in hip-hop. What Yasiin was doing back then, people thought it was dope whether they got hip-hop or not.

"His style was more universal to people who may not have liked what was going on in underground hip-hop. Yasiin has brought a lot of people to underground hip-hop—and Black Star, by extension, brought a lot of people to that sound.

“But my sound was still much rooted in the culture of hip-hop. My focus was on proving myself lyrically so only people who are into lyrics really understood what I was trying to do, whereas Yasiin was singing. I was still dressing as, like, the average hip-hop dude; Yasiin wasn’t. There was a lot of things that he was doing that transcended what we were doing in underground hip-hop.”

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