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

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OVO Fest

drake big sean ovo

When it comes to being in the spotlight, it sure seems that Drake is used to it.  Every time his albums drop, his name gets put at the forefront of the industry, and this occasion is no exception.  With Nothing Was the Same right around the corner, there is all the anticipation in the world for his music.

With his new single “Hold on We’re Going Home” and his feature verse on “Versace”, it’s been difficult to not hear Drake’s name mentioned in passing, or seeing his name mentioned on everything from Twitter to the blogosphere.

His OVO Fest happened recently, a spectacular event featuring names such as Kanye West, J. Cole, TLC, Ma$e, Diddy, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Lil Wayne.  With a concert feature lineup like that, with your name as the headline, it’s quite clear that Drake is at the top of his game.

Will this popularity continue? His skills keep developing with every passing single, so it’s safe to say probably.

Bringing Diddy and Ma$e back together is quite a feat in itself, honestly.  It seems to be that they had so much fun, Drake is interested in signing Ma$e to his label, OVO Sound.

Check out some of the videos of performances from the night:

And of course, here is the much-talked-about appearance of Kanye West at the festival, as well as Diddy and Ma$e.  Kanye and Drake have not exactly been very good friends over the past couple years, but this a great a chance as ever to begin making music together! We can only hope for the best.

-Ronzo

Magna Carta Holy-what?

Jay-Zee Zee

Jay-Z plans to drop a new album on July 4th. Debuted during the NBA Finals Game 5, it was quite a shock to hear that the album was dropping this soon. Not much fanfare has been made about the project. There’s been no hit singles, or tracklistings, or even producers talking about working with Jay. Only thing that’s really been shown are people posing with Hov in the studio.

For example, check out this fantastic photo op:
Yeezus, Jigga, Nasty Nas

Does this mean that we will see these three on a track together? That would be a truly glorious moment for Hip-Hop history. It was supposedly taken at Kanye’s birthday celebration, so there is no guarantee that a track is in the works. However, they could be disguising it with a birthday celebration (Kanye’s idea), in order to build all sorts of huge anticipation for one of the greatest features ever seen (definitely Kanye’s idea). Of course, this is all speculation, as there is no way for me to actually know if there is a track or not.

More Magna Carta Holy Grail feature extraordinaires:
jay-z-in-the-studio-with-raekwon

jay-z-in-the-studio-with-drake

The real question is, which kind of Jay-Z will we get here? Will we get Watch the Throne type? Or maybe we’ll get the “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)” version. You could argue both are similar, even, with Watch the Throne just being a bit more of a sporadic version. Or, maybe Jay will open the way for a lot of new artists coming up in the game (a torch-passing of sorts), kind of like what he did with Dynasty Roc La Familia.

It’s definitely hard to say I’m not excited for this album, as it could end up being something we haven’t heard from Jay-Z in quite some time. Especially with all these possible features, and all of the legendary producers now being revealed in this video down below:

Hard to say that many rappers have a bigger voice than Jay-Z in the Hip-Hop world right now, and he’s showing it off with the style and pizzazz that only someone of his stature could do.

All eyes on you, Hova.

-Ronzo

UPDATE: new tracklist!

1. Picasso Baby
2. Heaven
3. Versus
4. Tom Ford
5. Beach Is Better
6. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt
7. Oceans
8. F.U.T.W.
9. Part II (On The Run)
10. BBC
11. La Familia
12. Jay-Z Blue
13. Nickels & Dimes

June 18th: The Conclusion

june-18One of the greatest days in recent Hip-Hop history happened on the Tuesday of this week. Three albums battled for sale number supremacy, and they all made a valiant claim to be at the top, with all three making huge strides in their musical careers. The real winners of this monumental period are the hardcore Hip-Hop fanatics, though. After all, we’re the ones who get the incredible material to listen to.

Each one intrigued and surprised me in different ways, but I can say one thing: all three projects deserve multiple spins.

1. Kanye West – Yeezus
Kanye West - Yeezus

I’ve always respected Kanye’s knack to venture into the unknown, but I’m not usually the first one to say I love the music. I usually tend to throw that in with the idea of myself being a Hip-Hop backpacker of sorts, a Conservative for the classic boom bap sounds of the mid-to-late 90’s. This happened to me when both My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808’s and Heartbreaks came out, as both were albums that pushed the envelope for what was being offered in the Hip-Hop world.

(In fact, in a recent conversation with friends, it was brought to my attention that Drake’s style is heavily based on the 808’s project. Not entirely based around it, but heavily influenced)

The thing is, after multiple listens to projects like Yeezus, their cohesive ideas and strong cultural messages start to sink in a little bit. Kanye is completely aware of this, however. He loves his music to be avant-garde, something that you truly can’t understand the first time you hear it. The words and rhythms need to sink in and becoming meaningful. Even the small intricacies of all the screaming and strange noises throughout the project have purposes for the mood and soul of the album.

After listening to the project 5 plus times, I finally understand why some people love it, some hate it. But that’s exactly what Kanye wants.

As for me, I prefer the soul-driven beats and goofy but meaningful lyrics from College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation. Artists are always evolving though, and the direction is understandable in his shoes. This project does not quite fit into my lane, but maybe with a couple more listens that could change.

2. J. Cole – Born Sinner
J. Cole - Born Sinner

“Power Trip” has been on the radio for quite some time, harkening back to his days of Sideline Story. However, the majority of this album is not anything too much like Cole’s Freshman debut. The lyrics and beats sound matured and delivered with a musical intensity that I have not heard from J. Cole since his Friday Night Lights mixtape days. With all of the softer, melodic, ready for radio tracks Sideline Story had, Cole was bound to make an album that would appeal to the masses of Hip-Hop heads. With deep lyrical meaning and intricate flows, Cole shows the versatility of the flow and subject matter previously unknown.

J. Cole himself has mentioned that depression haunted him throughout the making of, and you can tell. A lot of the album has to do with self-reflection, and focusing on the betterment of himself. Many artists in the history of Hip-Hop, and much music in general, have shown that depression truly brings out the strongest feelings and moods. Usually, this is good for songwriting, as the lyrics brought out can relate to many people listening.

Something strange about this album, was Cole’s idea to rework a lot of classic beats. Being the innovative and talented producer he is, one would think he would try to make some original beats without the most obvious of samples (although, one could argue Cole has always been like this, based on songs like “Work Out” with the easily noticeable Kanye sample). Songs such as “Forbidden Fruit” and “Land of the Snakes” both have noticeable samples from Outkast, and A Tribe Called Quest, respectively. “Forbidden Fruit” features Kendrick Lamar, but he is unfortunately only featured on the hook.

(Still waiting on that collaboration album…)

This Sophomore effort is very enjoyable, though, and is the most impressive outing from J. Cole I have heard so far. Lyrical content can really take you far in trying to impress a guy like me.

Born Sinner is the clear winner in the June 18th showdown.

3. Mac Miller – Watching Movies with the Sound Off
Mac Miller - Watching Movies with the Sound Off

Mac Miller has always been hot and cold in this game of ours. Everyone loved his debut to the major public in K.I.D.S., then the same people openly berated him for being too one-dimensional and “boring” once his studio album Blue Slide Park hit shelves (Seriously, check out this scathing Pitchfork review: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16113-blue-side-park/).

Even with all of this critiscism, Mac has stuck to his true style and made it well-rounded. Lyrically, he has never been unimpressive. Watching Movies with the Sound Off has many intelligent and creative rhyme scemes that any Hip-Hop fan in their right mind can respect and enjoy.

One thing I have noticed about Mac Miller is his neglect of moving out of his style of throwing gibberish, and non-sensical mumble jumble together in sentences that fit together simply because they’re creative rhymes. While this can be impressive at times (a la Odd Future), I could see how that could become frutrating to many long-time listeners, including myself.

I’m thoroughly impressed with the musical aspect of this album, as all the beats are expertly made, perfect for the vibe Mac brings to the table. Features from Ab-Soul and Action Bronson make the album stronger, as both provide excellent verses. It’s refreshing to see Mac link up with other rising MC’s in the game, and it shows the true unity of this up-and-coming class of Hip-Hop legends.

I seriously hope to hear more of this from Mac Miller, as Wacthing Moves with the Sound Off is a huge step in the evolution of an artist still trying to find his identity.

-Ronzo