Talent Attracts Talent: A Look at Talib Kweli Collaborations

Talib-Kweli

One of the greatest parts of Hip-Hop is the emphasis on collaborating and putting multiple artists on a single track.  There are plenty of classic jams throughout Hip-Hop history built on this idea, and one thing’s for sure: Talib Kweli is really good at being involved with them.  Either being recruited, or starting them himself.

Lyricists appreciate other good lyricists, usually out of plain love for the music.  Studying the game and recognizing other good musicians is just as important as making the music yourself.  Being surrounded by talent makes Talib easy to recognize, as he’s frequent collaborators with Mos Def, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, and Common, to name a few.  The collaborative album Black Star with Mos Def is an album that has been specially preserved in the gallery of Hip-Hop history. Their names were arguably the biggest on Rawkus Records in the late 90s.  Impressive legacy, to say the least.

Today, I’m going to look at three especially impressive tracks, including one recent track that might be the best Talib collaboration yet.

Talib Kweli – Guerilla Monsoon Rap ft. Black Thought, Kanye West, and Pharoahe Monch

“Get By” is what really propelled Quality into classic record territory, but it would be foolish to pass up on this posse cut gem in the middle of the album.  The most underrated MC of all time (Black Thought), the syllable king (Pharoahe Monch), the creatively mad genius (Kanye West), and Talib all on one track? Quite an impressive feature list for the first solo album of your career.

To be completely fair, Kanye doesn’t have a verse, but he does provide the beat and the hook.  All these guys go in, as per usual.

Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek) – Just Begun ft. Jay Electronica, Mos Def, and J. Cole

The coolest part about this collaboration is the snapshot of where both Jay Electronica and J. Cole were in their respective careers.  Jay Electronica had his infamous signing to Roc-A-Fella Records that very same year, and the Hip-Hop community was swept up in his mystique.  With no legit album (and a constant promise of an approaching project), people wanted to hear more and more.  A lot of fans were dying to hear more and more music.

J. Cole’s position was quite different at this time.  During his Friday Night Lights era, he was definitely not getting the same respect he gets nowadays, post-Sideline Story.  One thing I’ve always respected majorly about Cole is his ability to write poetically.  The guy’s been doing it his whole career, and the verse on this is no exception.

You can tell on this track that all of these artists knew what was at stake.  A Jay Electronica appearance was a huge boost to the importance of the track, raising the bar for what needed to be written among all four rappers.

Talib Kweli, Elzhi, and Phonte – No Competition (prod. by Khrysis)

“No Competition” is a gift to Hip-Hop heads across the world.  All three of these rappers have been praised individually for their lyrical prowess and songwriting in general.  It’s impressive that all of them are still doing it as well as always to this day.  It all comes together over nice production by a rising star in the Hip-Hop game, Khrysis.

This cut is on the album Jamla Is The Squad, which just released on January 28th.  Be sure to check it out.

-Ronzo

Big Sean – Control (HOF) ft. Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Electronica

Kendrick Lamar

By now, I’m sure all of you have heard.  One of the most important moments for the change of the current state of Hip-Hop happened on Monday night, and all of it came from one Kendrick Lamar verse.  What’s even more surprising, is it was on a song where he was featured. 

Not only does he namedrop some of the biggest artists in the industry, telling them to step their game up, he also proclaims himself the “King of New York”.  Quite a big proclamation from a Compton MC.  Not to mention the fact that that title is a touchy subject among New York MCs, dating all the way back to the beginnings of the genreThe last true king in many Hip-Hop fanatic’s head is Notorious B.I.G.. Other MC’s who could stake a claim include Nas and Jay-Z, but those two are a bit more unofficial.  However, the thing is Kendrick specifically mentions he is in the same ranks as those guys.  This is a call to the new artists.  The ones that are hungry for the top spot.

This kind of action is perfect for the mundane state of things in the current Hip-Hop industry.  Kendrick’s perspective should be viewed as more of a competitive challenge rather than a diss track, though many artists will probably think of it as personal.  Especially the New York ones.  However, it is perfectly explained here that although he wants to take your fans, lyrically destroy you on every track, and then laugh about it, all names mentioned are family to him. He just wants to make it into competition.  As they call it in sports, Kendrick is showing his “killer instinct”, and he wants everyone to respond with the same fire.

One may argue that this verse is getting this much attention because of K. Dot’s level of stardom.  I believe that only someone of his lyrical ability would be able to make a point as powerful as he did.  It’s truly phenomenal for any musical genre to have a truly gifted artist leading the way for it’s future.

Big Sean may be the man of the moment in perspective, though, as he was the one who let this all happen.  In an interview held on Tuesday, Sean mentions that he heard K. Dot’s verse after writing and recording his own.  No contact between the two MC’s about the verse was made until after Sean had heard it, putting him in a very uncomfortable situation.  After hearing something so monumental to the current state of the Hip-Hop industry, and having his own verse and name bodied in the process, there would seemingly be a lot of pressure on Big Sean to change his original verse and do something  similar to what Kendrick did.  The thing is, he didn’t.  He handled it with class, releasing it to show how much of a true Hip-Hop head he is.  He knew how important this all was for the grand scheme of things. 

Also, to be completely honest, he really put out a fantastic verse himself.

For the third and final verse, Jay Electronica impresses as well.  In fact, it’s one of the best verses I’ve heard from him in quite some time. Too bad coming right after Kendrick on this song is a perfect recipe for disaster.  I don’t think anyone would knowingly choose to come after that.

“A month or two ago, Big Sean asked me to be on this record with him for his album. He had a demo hook on it at the time. I did my verse and sent it back – See more at: http://news.revolt.tv/jay-electronica-speaks-on-control-verse/#sthash.tKBSinp7.dpuf

 

“A month or two ago, Big Sean asked me to be on this record with him for his album. He had a demo hook on it at the time.  I did my verse and sent it back…I found out a couple days before it was released that Kendrick had put a verse on it”

He said this in an interview with Revolt TV, mentioning how great he thinks the track is and speaking on how he thinks it will further influence the rap game.

“I like the song and the stir it’s causing…It’s good for rap music”

I believe that this verse will stand the test of time, as a landmark that changed Hip-Hop for the good.  Enough messing around, it’s time to step into the arena.  For we all know how many response tracks are surely coming our way.

-Ronzo