Published on March 27th, 2013 | by Boman12l0
Hostile Gospel Came Out in 07 And Y’all Still Get Talib Kweli Twisted
This past weekend, a marathon of Talib Kweli was the soundtrack of my migration back home from Gainesville to Orlando. It was during a play through of Eardrum, I came to the realization that even back then, Kweli was addressing the preconceptions that would later go one to be a major focus of his upcoming album, Prisoner of Conscious.
They couldn’t find the words to describe me so they resort to the shortcuts
Is he a backpacker? Is he a mad rapper?
An entertainer or the author of the last chapter
That’s “Hostile Gospel,” a song from 07 and it touches on an issue that still happens when people try and speak about Kweli. Since the Prisoner of Conscious concept has been floating around, it’s become obvious to me how these labels do more to limit an artist than define them.
Throughout his career, Kweli has been called the champion of the underground, the friend of the people and the lyricist’s lyricist. However the label most associated with the BK MC would have to be “Conscious Rapper.” Referring to the fact that much of Kweli’s music is far removed from the collective ignorance that festers in much of hip-hop. He is an outliner – not conforming to the conventions used by many. But this label of “conscious rapper” has frequently been a stigma against Kweli.
Take for example Monday‘s leak “Makes No Sense.” What surprised most bloggers about the song wasn’t its sudden appearance nor that it seemed to exist in a void, with no related projects attached to it or that that track was unfinished, but who was featured on it alongside Kweli: Freddie Gibbs and Jon Connor. Yes, we are still surprised by who Kweli collabs with. Why? Because Kweli is a “conscious rapper” and gangsta Gibbs and Jon Connor are not. This happens anytime Kweli does a song with rappers that don’t fit into that mold. We saw the same thing with Nelly and we saw the same thing with Gucci Maine. Even on Eardrum, people were surprised that Kweli had a song with UGK. Their song “Country Cousin” was dope. Still many back then thought it was the craziest thing that an artist like Kweli would do a track with UGK (R.I.P Pimp C). Here’s the irony: if any rapper has done a feature with anybody, it would be Bun B. The man is the feature king, but no one questions Bun B when he collabs with The Cool Kids, Statik Selektah or Mac Miller. No one says “he’s a Houston rapper, why is he working with these boys from Detroit? The same cannot be said for Kweli.
It’s a double standard that most likely stems from the conscious label. Nas is an artist who shares many of the same themes and subject matter as Kweli, but no one would label him a “conscious rapper” or question why he’s working with someone. If Nas works with someone who is a polar opposite of him most reaction are “Oh shit, did you see who Nas is working with? Bet it’s going to be dope!” However, with Kweli it’s “Man, what is Kweli thinking? Why is he working with that guy?” he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt, they don’t even give the collaboration a chance to be dope.
Many feel that Kweli can only work with other similarly labeled rappers and anything else is an abomination. People feel that if Kweli works with other people (like Gucci Maine or Lil Wayne) then it is going to hurt his brand image, but whom better to understand the Kweli brand than Talib Kweli himself? Kweli has never once attempted to call himself anything other than a Hip-Hop artist and why should you? These labels limit an artist and what you expect them to do. It’s one of reasons Kweli frequently reminds folks he went to the same lyricist lounges as Biggie and Puffy. Why? Because people would not think that an artist like Biggie would ever be at a Lyricist Lounge, the gambit works both ways. It’s situations like those that make Kweli’s upcoming album, Prisoner of Conscious, all the more interesting.
A little over a year ago, I wrote a Wild Internet Speculation for Talib Kweli’s Prisoner of Conscious. While some of the information is still viable, even without the album releasing, many of those predictions have now been proven to be not true. Before you start shaking your head, let me say these are the risk we take when speculating wildly on the internet and much of my predictions were made with information that was available then. The truth is, no one could have seen the delays the album would face and the Prisoner of Conscious that was shaping in early 2012 is much different than the Prisoner of Conscious that is stated to drop May 7th 2013. A year is plenty of time to rework an album and numerous things can happen in that time frame that can influence and inspire an artist to go back to the drawing board.
While things like producers and features may have changed, the core concepts of the album are remaining steady. Kweli has always been one to challenge listeners’ perceptions and continues to do so. Tracks like “Upper Echelon” where Kweli rocks on a trap like beat produced by Harry Fraud and “One Two” featuring Young Money artist Jae Millz are there to test the champions of the “Conscious” label. Once fans get passed their narrow perceptions, they will soon notice Kweli been doing the same thing he has always done his whole career. There is no need to worry, Talib knows what he’s doing.