Talib Kweli Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Talib Kweli f/ Jeymes Samuel "The Proud" (2002)

Album: Quality
Producer: Ayotollah
Label: Rawkus / Universal Music Group

Talib Kweli: “I forget the actual headline, but the day that Timothy McVeigh died, the New York Post ran a like, ‘We Killed Evil’ or ‘Evil Is Gone.’ I thought that was just some real bullshit.

"I’m like, they really got people convinced that this one man is the embodiment of evil and the state murdering him somehow solves some sort of problem in the world. It just struck me: I really didn’t believe in the death penalty.

“That was sort of the catalyst that started the thoughts to that rhyme. Then, there was a headline for a drunk cop ran over a bunch of black kids in Sunset Park. It was just a local news story, it wasn’t a national news story, but it was something that really affected me. Those were two events that over that year were heavy on my mind.

 

After 9/11, Jarret and Bryan from Rawkus asked me to change my professional name. They were like, ‘We’re not sure if you should be known as Talib Kweli.’ This is how crazy and backwards things were becoming.

 

“Then 9/11 happened. When 9/11 went down, the same sort of ignorance I had about the Internet, I had about the country. Or the same sort of assumptions. I thought people would be able to see through a lot of the propaganda that was about to happen. 

“The amount of blind patriotism I saw, it disheartened me because I felt like it came from a real ignorant and dishonest place. So as musicians, especially me being a musician with the name of Talib [which means 'seeker of truth'], we were asked to address this whole situation immediately. There was a musical response, everyone came together. I remember seeing a video with Nelly and everybody in the studio.

“Jarret and Bryan from Rawkus asked me to change my professional name. They were like, ‘We’re not sure if you should be known as Talib Kweli.’ This is how crazy and backwards things were becoming. 

“I was like, ‘I have to address 9/11 and what’s happening in America, but I’ve gotta be as honest as I can be about it.’ But how can I do that and be as revolutionary as a dead prez or a Michael Franti, but still have some understanding for why people would be scared or would want to be suddenly patriotic? So I tied all of those things together in that record.

“The only response that I’ve ever gotten from the past is people repeating lyrics. Like the line that goes, “Kurt Loder asked me what I say to a dead cop's wife/Cops kill my people every day, that's life,” has been something that people seem to really like. I haven’t gotten really any negative backlash from that record.”

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