President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my ﬁrst or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": The average listener may not pick up on all of the messages in each Talib Kweli song. He may have to go back and listen to the same song over and over again to get all the references, subliminal messages and even some of the more obvious lyrics. These days you don't ﬁnd too many rappers who are in the same lyrical category as Rakim, the rappers that won't let their beats override the lyrics in the songs. Even Talib Kweli's commerical hits still have a message in them, and he has yet to dumb down his music, which is rare and admirable. Those who may not have been familiar with him before grew curious after rapper Jay Z said, ''If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli." Jay Z doesn't walk around complimenting everybody. Quite frankly Talib Kweli is a better lyricist than quite a few millionaire rappers today so while the plug may have been unexpected, it was obvious.
And when he says things like "Hip-hop isn't as complex as a woman is," how can you not think he's hot? Every time I read an interview with him, he always explains something that I can't help but crack a smile about. What I personally like about him is that he's not so brainwashed by the music industry that he won't take chances. I loved his 2003 single "Get By," but his 2007 song "Give ’Em He/I" was better to me. The beat is crazy, and he had the beautiful sound of Lyfe Jennings singing in the background.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: On the opening to the 2007 album "Eardrum," poet Sonia Sanchez says, "I don't remember the ﬁrst time I heard Kweli." That makes two of us because I racked my brain trying to remember the ﬁrst time I heard about him. I saw him perform live while I was in grad school at DePaul University, but I was reciting his lyrics along with him so I knew that wasn't it. I don't quite remember listening to him in high school from '95 to '99, but I knew too many songs from his 1998 album ''Black Star" (with my favorite hip-hop lyricist Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek) so that wasn't it. Talib Kweli is one of those artists that I think hip-hop fans hear, but it just takes a minute before we really listen. And once we listen to the words he's saying, then comes the appreciation. Is he underrated? Definitely. Overlooked? Occasionally. Talented? Unquestionably. However, sometimes the most talented artists are at the top of their game and fans are climbing trying to catch up to them.
Accomplishments from the Artist: On the Billboard charts, "Eardrum" hung around for 10 weeks and peaked at number two, selling 60,000 copies in the ﬁrst week. His 2003 single "Get By" was on the Billboard charts for eight weeks in the Rap category. LooktotheStars.com states the charities Talib Kweli has supported include the Chris Webber Foundation and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He's also performed for the Dare 2 Dream foundation, according to the Chicago Tribune. For the "CalI+Response" documentary, the rapper performed "Broken Glass" in support of ﬁghting against human slavery. According to the documentary's website, "In 2007, slave traders made more money than Google. Nike and Starbucks combined." And if you're into cartoons, check him out as the lead character, Blak, on "Blokhedz."
Talib Kweli plays the lead voice in the anime cartoon "Blokhedz."
Talib Kweli is popularly known for working with Mos Def on the '90s CD "Black Star."
Talib Kweli's most commercially successful song is "Get By."
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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