Talent Attracts Talent: A Look at Talib Kweli Collaborations


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’s 5 Favorite Remixes

Craig Mack

Ever since Craig Mack and the rest of Bad Boy Entertainment gathered a remix lineup for the ages, big name collaborations have been tossed out frequently.  Big hits become classics when some of the famous names in Hip-Hop lend a verse or two to the original hit track.  Sometimes, putting a new beat on it just isn’t enough.

Remixes are still strong into the future.  The recent “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)” is proof enough.  Not only are famous artists coming together to make remixes, the up-and-coming rappers also benefit majorly.

Take someone like Rocko, for example, with the notoriously popular song “U.O.E.N.O. ft. Rick Ross, Future“.  Aside from the fact that Rick Ross and Future are both enormous names (and the significance of the rape lyric controversy), countless artists from Wiz Khalifa to all of Black Hippy have done remixes.  Naturally, this only ends up making the original song more popular, leaving Rocko with his first ever Top 50 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.  This is happening throughout the rap game, and very often.

It’s definitely positive for the genre, and positive for the culture.  It’s teamwork at it’s finest.

Here are my 5 favorite remixes that I’ve heard throughout the years:

Sway & King Tech – The Anthem ft. RZA, Xzibit, Eminem, Tech N9ne, Pharoahe Monch, KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Jayo Felony, and Chino XL

Being the hosts of The Wake Up Show, it’s not surprising that Sway & King Tech were able to gather an impressive list of legendary features.  “The Anthem” dropped in 1999, catching a number of these listed MC’s still in their primes.  Eminem was just beginning his mainstream rap career, with the personality of Slim Shady.  Pharoahe Monch, Xzibit, and Tech N9ne were all making popular music as well, making waves in the Hip-Hop world.  KRS-One and Kool G Rap both tagged along as well, adding a strong OG presence.

Each rapper performs at a high level, producing some hilarious rhyme schemes. Take Eminem’s line here for example:

Climbed out of a nice house/through the front window and heard this guy shout/hey that’s my couch!

(While this is not an official remix, the gigantic list of famous names on a DJ track deserves recognition)

Pharoahe Monch – Simon Says (Remix) ft. Lady Luck, Redman, Method Man, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Busta Rhymes)

Pharoahe Monch achieved major success with “Simon Says”, which logically meant a ridiculously ill remix was right around the corner.  Sticking to an unorthodox method, Pharoahe Monch writes a new verse for the occassion, and makes it just as good (if not better) as the original verse.  He absolutely takes home the title for best performance.

That’s expected when the Queens MC takes the mic, though.

Redman and Method Man are one of the best unofficial Hip-Hop duos of the ’90s, and this remix is a great snapshot of both in their prime.  Both are rightful legends in the industry, and have made a name around having fantastic feature verses.

Also around this time, Busta Rhymes was still in his “wild style” phase, spitting verses with flows as strange as the clothes he wore.  His videos were strange, and voices maniacal, but you just had to love it; it was original and innovative.

Kanye West – Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix) ft. Jay-Z

I’m not a business man, I’m a business, man/let me handle my business, damn

The immortal line from Jay-Z made this song a remix miracle, and all but cemented Jay in the list of greatest feature rappers of all time.  Kanye in the past has mentioned how he felt about the verse, that Jay “kicked his ass” as mentioned on the song “Big Brother”.

Late Registration was a Hip-Hop classic, and this remix only made it better.  The original single was made to deliver an important message, while the remix made it fun and friendly.

Talib Kweli – Get By (Remix) ft. Mos Def, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes

Funny how Busta Rhymes makes his way on to so many classic remixes.

Talib Kweli’s “Get By” is arguably his best single of all time.  It’s definitely one of his favorites.  This remix did it justice, as this heavily popular group of various MC’s made a solid amount of music with each other throughout the early 2000’s.

This version of Kanye West is long gone, and the same can be said about this version of Jay-Z.  Jay was in his Black Album days, a period of heavy inspiration and clever wordplay.  Kanye was making music from the “everyman’s” perspective, writing about his struggles and joy in every day life.  This writing style was seen through all of College Dropout and Late Registration. 

It was all quite different than the Kanye we know and love today.

Dj Unk – Walk it Out (Remix) ft. Andre 3000, and Jim Jones

Being a huge Outkast fan, I absolutely love this track.  Andre’s verse was one of the best feature verses he’s ever done, as well as one of the few we’ve gotten to hear over the past decade.

DJ Unk made it big with this song, but never caught the same attention again.  At least we got quite a collaboration.