Brooklyn hip-hop artist and social activist Talib Kweli has built a career on incisive, intelligent lyrics with his thought-provoking rap. Surrounded by a family of university educators, Kweli came to the public's attention in 1996 when he appeared on the album Doom by Cincinnati group Mood. It was in 2002, with the release of his debut solo album Quality, that he saw his reputation blossom nationally.
He put out the Train of Thought: Lost Lyrics, Rare Releases & Beautiful B-Sides Vol. 1 and Fuck the Money albums in 2015, and the Awful People Are Great at Parties collaboration with Javotti Media last year. This year, he has a collaboration album with Styles P, The Seven, due out soon. He's coming to Denver, Sunday night, so we chatted with the man...
Westword: You've been active in music for over 20 years now. How do you think you've grown and evolved as an artist in that time?
Talib Kweli: I'm stronger, wiser, more independent, and far more in control of how my music is received.
Brooklyn has certainly changed in that time. What are your feelings about the Brooklyn arts scene today, and hip-hop specifically?
Brooklyn is always changing, for better or for worse. Honestly, I'm so focused on what I do that I am not really an expert on the current Brooklyn arts scene. It requires too much attention to run my business.
Fuck the Money came out in 2015 . Any sign of a new, solo full-length album?
Yes, it will come out after the album with Styles P. I'm not sure of the name yet though.
How did it feel to guest on A Tribe Called Quest's awesome comeback album? How did that hook-up happen?
I found myself hanging round Q-Tip, because I wanted him to produce a song on my next album. When I realized he was focused on the Tribe album, I stopped talking about my album and just showed up to watch, fascinated. At a point, I was asked to contribute. It was overwhelming, and a blessing. A dream come true. RIP Phife Dawg.
Is there anyone you've never collaborated with that you would really like to?
Bjork. She's her own genre of music. I respect that.
You're known for your decency and social activism as well as, obviously, your music. How are you preparing for the (Trump) presidency? What can we all do? What are your general feelings about it?
I'm glad to be known for being decent, even though no one should be rewarded for mere decency. The key to dealing with Trump is honesty. He is a fascist liar who won because people ignore fake news and let lies spread unchecked, falsely assuming if you ignore a lie it will disappear. We need to be more honest with ourselves and our countrymen and women, and stop letting Trump and his goons spread lies unchecked.
Have we taken steps backwards as a society? Is the election a sign of this?
While I was certainly naive enough to believe Trump couldn't win, this isn't a step backwards as much as it's a reminder of how far we still have to go. We were spoiled by Obama. We couldn't afford to be, obviously.
Do you have any particular memories of performing in Denver?
I love Denver. I have good friends there. The fans there have been supporting me for years.
What can we expect from your set this time?
After this tour, what's next in 2017?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The Seven album, from Talib Kweli and Styles P.
Talib Kweli plays with K'Valentine, Cavem Moetavation, and Slam Nuba, at 9 p.m. on Sunday, January 29, at the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, 303-789-9206.
Correction January 26, 2017: This story originally stated that Mood was from Cleveland. The group is from Cincinnati. We regret the error.