"I don't give a fuck about file sharing," Kweli says, when asked if the situation caused him to firm his stance on music piracy. "I was trying to present something to the world, to say, 'This is my creation.' If you steal it, that's your own karma you have to deal with. It's not my responsibility to be like, 'Boo to you because you stole it.' But it does become a violation to me when you're stealing stuff that I haven't finished."
The rerecorded album features production work by longtime Kweli collaborator Kanye West and the Neptunes. Guests include Common, Faith Evans and R&B up-and-comer John Legend. And Mary J. Blige lends her voice to the album's first single, the gospel-influenced "I Try."
"Before I worked with her, I was like 'Damn, I'd love to work with Mary J. Blige,'" Kweli says. "She's been very supportive."
As part of Black Star with Mos Def and on his previous solo albums, Kweli earned a reputation for his thoughtful, socially aware songs. The Beautiful Struggle goes even further and gets more specific.
"As I grow older, I'm more interested in telling stories, rather than just saying, 'This is what people are going through,'" he says. "It's more interesting to me to hear it in a story."
"Ghetto Show," featuring Common, is based on Kweli's travels and observations about life in different cities. "When I travel, I try to pick out the vibrancy of the neighborhoods, the different colors of the neighborhoods," he explains. "Not that the people are putting on a show. They're living their lives, but it's a show that exists in my head."
The Beautiful Struggle track listing:
Dear Father (featuring RES)
Back Up Off of Me
I Try (featuring Mary J. Blige)
Around My Way (featuring John Legend)
We Know (featuring Faith Evans)
We Got the Beat (featuring RES)
Work It Out
Ghetto Show (featuring Common and Anthony Hamilton)
Black Girl Pain (featuring Jean Grae)
Never Been In Love