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.