Talib Kweli Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Talib Kweli "Good To You" (2002)

Album: Quality
Producer: Kanye West
Label: Rawkus / Universal Music Group

Talib Kweli: “I immediately wrote the verse for ‘Good To You’ after I got the beat. What I wanted to do with that song was write something that would lyrically and stylistically fit in with what was going on at the time. At the time, ‘Ether’ was the hardest record out.

“So I basically took ‘Ether’ and wrote my own rhyme. You can kick the words to ‘Good To You’ in the same rhyme pattern as his. Well, at least the hook and the first verse, I veered off towards the end of the song but that was definitely the inspiration for it.

“I wanted to put out ‘Good To You’ as the first single, to me that was a hit record. My plan was ‘Good To You,’ ‘Get By,’ and then ‘Waiting for the DJ.’ That was my plan. Rawkus was like, ‘No, ‘Good To You’ is an underground record. We need to put out ‘Waiting for the DJ.’’

 

They put out ‘Waitin’ for the DJ’ and something interesting happened; I got backlash from it because DJs—and I’m not gonna blast anybody, but there are specific DJs who are on the radio today—that were like, ‘Bilal sounds gay, and that’s why I’m not gonna play it.’ They told me this to my face.

 

“They felt like that though because they picked that beat. That record was their whole idea. They was like the beat already had a Bilal singing sample on it, so they picked the beat with a Bilal sample, and I was like, ‘Well I know Bilal, let’s get him on the song.’

“Even though they picked the beat and I liked it, I wanted it to be my third single. Not because I thought it was wack, but I felt like the streets needed to hear me on some rugged shit first, before I came with ‘Waitin’ for the DJ.’

“They put out ‘Good To You’ and Jarret later admitted to me that he only put out like 1,000 copies and he didn’t really promote it. When he was putting it out he was really telling people, ‘But we got this next record with Bilal coming.’ They underserved ‘Good To You’ because they weren’t really feeling it.

“I don’t say ‘pause’ but at that time on the radio, all the DJs were following Dipset, at least on the East Coast. Dipset had that whole ‘pause’ thing so every DJ was on ‘pause.’ Everything was ‘pause’ and ‘no homo’ on the radio all the time.

“They put out ‘Waitin’ for the DJ’ and something interesting happened; I got backlash from it because DJs—and I’m not gonna blast anybody, but there are specific DJs who are on the radio today—that were like, ‘Bilal sounds gay, and that’s why I’m not gonna play it.’ They told me this to my face.

“And in the video we were all dancing and Bilal was dancing funny, so they didn’t like it. It didn’t seem masculine enough for what was going on in hip-hop at the time. So that record didn’t really do anything."

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