Talib Kweli is a rapper's rapper. He's well known and admired by anyone who has followed hip-hop in the past decade. Perhaps the highest praise came from Jay-Z's "Moment of Clarity": "If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli."
Since the late '90s, when Kweli emerged from the Brooklyn underground with Reflection Eternal, he has recorded eight albums, including 2011's Gutter Rainbows. He has rhymed with pop megastars The Black Eyed Peas ("Like That") and broken bread with Dirty South vet David Banner ("Ridin'"). His Blacksmith Records roster includes NYC rapper Jean Grae, soulful iconoclasts like Res and John Forté, and West Coast street rappers Strong Arm Steady. Though Kweli's proudly made a career out of music with a message, he's quietly kept himself from being pigeonholed as just another conscious emcee. (His next album is provocatively titled Prisoner of Conscious.)
In March 2012, Kweli hosted a showcase with Grae and Pharoahe Monch at the SXSW conference in Austin. For those who think lyricism is passé, check out the reception Jean gets for "Uh Oh," or when Pharoahe performs "Still Standing" from his excellent album W.A.R. (We Are Renegades). Mainstream appeal or not, these artists know how to rock a crowd. Watch them rock the mic in the video on this page, and, for a limited time, grab a Kweli track for free. – Mosi Reeves, Google Play
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