Talib Kweli

EXCLUSIVE: Talib Kweli Escapes The Prison Of The ‘Conscious Rapper’ Label With New Album

(AllHipHop News) “It’s about growth now. We have to grow, and that’s the point,” recites Talib Kweli on the call-and-response intro to his latest album Prisoner Of Conscious. Now on his 5th solo LP, Kweli seems to be on a mission to escape the confinement of labels.

P.O.C. still contains the Brooklyn emcee’s prolific lyrical talent that he has demonstrated since his debut on Black Star with Mos Def, but this time around Kweli has moved a way from the social-political themes of past projects in favor of a more personal approach to his songwriting. In order for Kweli to challenge himself as an artist and to reflect his reach as an international performer, this collection of work was created with a feel of universal relatability.

“On this album, the tracks I picked and the amount of live instrumentation I used was a little more focused on the world and me being a musician of the world rather than me just being a Hip-Hop artist from Brooklyn,” says Kweli.

Talib’s affection for diverse musical sounds is displayed with the electronic energy of “Upper Echelon,” the Afrobeat-inspired “High Life” featuring Massinfluence’s Rubix & Sierra Leonean Hip-Hop crew Bajah, and “Favela Love,” a collaboration with noted Brazilian musician/actor Seu Jorge.

While Prisoner of Conscious does take the listener around the globe, Kweli made sure to showcase a homegrown Hip-Hop and R&B accent as well. “Rocketships” gives Talib, and guest Busta Rhymes, an opportunity to tackle the dark, drum-heavy production of RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. The New Yorker taps New Orleans native Curren$y and Los Angeles resident Kendrick Lamar for the tri-coastal “Push Thru” produced by Symbolyc One. Collaborations with Miguel, Melanie Fiona, Marsha Ambrosius, and Ryan Leslie bring a soulful flavor to their respective tracks.

In total, there are 13 credited featured artists on P.O.C. which is the most guest appearances for any Talib Kweli solo album. According to Kweli, his intention on 2002’s Quality, 2004’s The Beautiful Struggle, 2007’s Eardrum, and 2011’s Gutter Rainbows was to share his distinct vision, but after over 15 years in the game Kweli did not feel bound to only concentrating on his own perspective for this project.

“A lot of times with my solo albums, I’ve focused on making sure you really heard my voice, and this time I didn’t bother with that,” says Kweli. “Whenever I thought about wanting to work with someone I said, ‘let me just hit them up and let me see if they’d be into it.’ So I was a lot freer in the decision-making process than I’ve normally been.”

One collab that may surprise some longtime Kweli fans is the song “Before He Walked” with Nelly, but Kweli believes the St. Louis rapper’s verse could shock some listeners.

“I think it’s interesting, because people don’t usually get to hear Nelly being introspective,” says Kweli. “I think he’s a great musician, and I think people are going to really like what he contributed to the album.”

Beyond working with other musicians, Kweli has also enlisted the talents of visual artists. Prisoner Of Conscious’ physical packaging will include artwork from various painters, graphic designers, and photographers.

Prisoner Of Conscious

“The album cover is the back of a canvas that somebody would paint on. Inside the album cover are actual pieces of art that artists have done,” reveals Kweli. “It’s people’s different interpretations of what ‘prisoner of conscious’ means.”

The art component was curated by Jeff Staple of the highly successful creative consulting firm Staple Design. Kweli contacted Staple through Twitter about designing the cover for Prisoner Of Conscious. Eventually, Staple met with Kweli in the studio, and the two discussed their interpretations of the album’s title.

After realizing each had a different idea of what “prisoner of conscious” meant, Staple came up with the idea of letting different artists define the phrase in their own way. Allister Lee, Chris Mendoza, Eric Haze, Felicia Douglass, James Jean, Sophia Chang, and Chuck Anderson of No Pattern all contributed to the project.

“I chose artists that all have been greatly influenced by Hip-Hop and Kweli in particular,” says Staple. “The result is almost as if Kweli had given a brief to the artists and asked them to envision what a ‘prisoner of conscious’ looks like to them.”

In a way, P.O.C. is a new beginning for Kweli. The 37-year-old emcee has been working on the album for four years (some of the early recordings like “I’m On One” and “Cold Rain” ended up on Gutter Rainbows), and in that time he reunited with Hi-Tek for Revolutions per Minute, released a mixtape and album with Res as Idle Warship, and dropped the free solo project Attack the Block.

Even with that impressive amount of varied work added to his résumé recently, Kweli was still motivated to push himself beyond the “conscious rapper” tag constantly placed on him with Prisoner of Conscious.

“My music gives you a message, true and respect is due, but music is emotion that’s lost on the intellectuals,” raps Kweli on “Before He Walked.”

With Prisoner Of Conscious, Talib Kweli invites the scholar, the world traveler, the artist, the Hip-Hop head, the R&B fan, and every other member of the global community to his personal celebration of musical freedom.

[ALSO READ: Talib Kweli Talks Jay-Z / Rick Ross Controversies, Brooklyn’s Hip-Hop Renaissance, And New Music]

Talib Kweli’s Prisoner Of Conscious will be released on Tuesday, May 7th.

Watch the videos for “Push Thru” featuring Curren$y & Kendrick Lamar and “High Life” featuring Rubix & Bajah below.

  • Tony G.

    Talib always delivers…im sure this will be no different.

  • johnblacksad

    didn’t know if it was an album or a mixtape… (i know there’s not much difference no more) …always good news to hear from Talib… like Tony G said… he always delivers!

    Thinkin back… Reflection Eternal, Quality, Beautiful Struggle, Ear Drum were all solid albums… i’m not too familiar with Gutter Rainbows but i gotta go thru it some more…

    This P.O.C. album will finally give Rich Boy some rest on the playlist… i can’t explain why i love the boy Rich Boy so much! “Get that doe, fcuk that hoe, spend that sh!t, flexible!”

  • TEE TWIN CITY

    Fire I await this real mc master of ceremony

  • johnblacksad

    “an opportunity to tackle the dark, drum-heavy production of RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.”

    ha ha… that’s all i needed to hear! #WU

  • johnblacksad

    “We bring it straight to your face from the start, yo
    Might be over your head but it’s straight from the heart
    I show my love in the light while ya’ll hate in the dark
    Straight to apocalypse is where i’m takin the art
    Givin n!ggaz battle scars, always makin my mark”

  • johnblacksad

    “screamin you got pull, when the only pull you got is the wool over your eyes
    gettin knowledge in jail like a blessing in disguise”

    • talid was i jail? for what? he pay money to go in to get some street cred?? ahahahahahaa NEXT!!!

      • johnblacksad

        talid was i jail?!!! motherfcuker what the fcuk is you talkin about?!!! How about you stop typing like retard to begin with? no wonder why Talib’s sh!t flies over your radar…

      • you sound butt hurt bruh… put some icey hot on it… HA

      • johnblacksad

        yes i’m mad someone obviously retarded allows himself to speak on issues that overstep him…

        ‘talid was i jail’… seriously n!gga?!

  • johnblacksad

    “my sound fat like a Neve while you thin like a Mackie”

    Message to the youngins : google Neve, then google Mackie… one!

    • shit.. im 37 and I dont know what the hell he talking bout…

      • Mitchell Patterson

        neve and mackie are mixing console brands – studio head shit. Nothing to do with age. It’s about music.

        You don’t have to get every line. As long as somebody does.

    • Smoke Peacefully

      Message to you google: something that is relevant to life because Neve and Mackie are both irrelevant to anything.

      • johnblacksad

        ‘relevant to life’ uh? oh yeah, i forgot LIFE, as you put it, doesn’t encompass certain things… smh… just like some people think some things are SURnatural…

        You preposterous bastard… i got another task for you this time : how about you make a list, an exhaustive list of things that are ‘relevant to life’ and one of things that are not ‘relevant to life’… that’s exactly what Socrates would ask your simple spirited azz… but whatchu know about maieutics anyways?!

        Fcukin wit me’ll leave you completely discombobulated!

        Instead of thankin me for learning something new today, what a Neve or a Mackie is… you’re displaying more stupidity… smh… these youngins just love to be disrespectful just for the fcuk of it…

        Have a fun life doing ‘relevant’ things….

      • Smoke Peacefully

        Im probably older than you, Socrates is dead so he could not ask me anything, I learned how so stupid you are, and you can take your Neve and Mackie turn them SOBs sideways and stick em up your candy azz.

        Have a fun life googling irrelevant things to teach the youngins.

      • johnblacksad

        Socrates lives forever… and your momma wishes she had a Neve up her butt

      • Smoke Peacefully

        If you think Socrates is still alive you need to stop trying to kick knowledge to the youth because you are ignorant no just dumb as hell. Your momma doesnt have to wish she had a Neve in her butt cause she has this long anaconda up her ass.

      • johnblacksad

        You’re mad because my knowledge you’re admiring,
        don’t be mad… U.P.S. is hiring!

    • No. You google “meh”

      • johnblacksad

        Don’t be mad… catch up instead

  • johnblacksad

    “Kurt Loder asks me what do i say to a dead cop’s wife?:
    Cops kill my people everyday, that’s life!”

    • pepemirufahi

      my co-worker’s sister makes $79 every hour on the internet. She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her payment was $18294 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on  Zap2­2­.c­om

    • Smoke Peacefully

      CORNY

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  • IMMACULATE_CONCEPT

    I loved that Liberation joint he did with Madlib a while ago, always enjoy listening to Talib but he does get a bit boring time to time. He gotta bring back that BlackStar with Mos tho!

  • there isnt a soul alive thats checking for anything new from him… meh… nothing to see here

    • johnblacksad

      talk about exaggerating… it’s like saying no one never came inside your momma

    • Smoke Peacefully

      Only those lames who are not smart enough to pick up a book and would rather seek knowledge in corny lyrics.

      • johnblacksad

        knowledge is everywhere… but you wouldn’t know about that

      • Smoke Peacefully

        You right I see how knowledgeable you are that you have to gain your only knowledge through someone else’s lyrics.

        Proof look at all those corny lyrics you posted.

  • Reblogged this on HUEY mix wit RILEY.

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