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Talib Kweli Ups the “Quality”

Solo debut due from Black Star rapper

Talib Kweli will release his solo debut, Quality
(Rawkus/MCA), on November 19th. The album is the first major-label
effort by the rapper, who rose from the underground hip-hop forum
Lyricists Lounge. Over the past four years, he’s built a
substantial following with the release of Reflection
Eternal
, his 2000 collaboration with DJ Hi-Tek, and Mos
Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
two years prior.

“It was just the best way of trying to describe what I wanted to
do,” Kweli says of the album’s title. “The word just fit. I’m
trying to focus on quality over quantity.”

As could be expected, Quality boasts collaborations
with like-minded members of the hip-hop and R&B community,
accentuating Kweli’s soulful sound. Bilal (who guests on “Waitin’
for the DJ,” the album’s first single), the Roots’ Black Thought,
and recently minted R&B singer Res, all make guest appearances,
as does newcomer Novel. “He’s a cat from L.A. who’s very young and
extremely talented,” Kweli says. “He can sing, he can rap and he
can make beats, and he does it all very well. He’s going to do some
great things. He really cares about music and he’s somebody who’s
grown up listening to a conscious vibe of rap and the popular shit.
He takes it all in, and he’s musically proficient.”

Among the album’s producers are the DJ Quik, Kanye West, the
Soulquarians (James Poyser, Jay Dee and the Roots’ Ahmir Thompson,
who produced Bilal’s 1st Born Second), Ayatollah (who
produced Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides), Kanye West
(Scarface, Jay-Z), and DJ Scratch (Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J).

“Kanye created a fire under me,” Kweli says. “He came into the
sessions just to play some beats early and through the recording of
the album, and he’s probably the producer I’m most likely to record
with right now, cause he’s got a good energy. And we can just work,
regardless if we’re actually working on a project or not, he’s just
ready to work and that’s refreshing. He definitely has a sound
right now, but he’s such a good producer I think next year he’ll
have a different sound and it’ll keep evolving.”

Quik’s appearance seems an odd pairing on paper, but the
cross-coastal pairing creates sparks on “Put It in the Air.” And
weeks after careless speculation was let loose surrounding the
murder of Jam Master Jay, Kweli says such reports of lingering
bi-coastal bickering are ridiculous. “I’ve been a fan, not the
whole time I’ve listened to hip-hop, but over the last two years
I’ve become much more of a fan of DJ Quik,” Kweli says. “And the
bi-coastal thing was absurd when it happened and it’s even much
more absurd now. It was never like that for me. You read about it
in newspapers and magazines, but it wasn’t anything that had a real
affect on my life as an artist. It was based around real
issues. New York never shows any region, much less the
west coast, the same respect it shows the artists from New York.
There’s definitely cultural differences, so it’s not completely
ridiculous to say that there’s differences in the music. But
turning it into something bigger than those things is
ridiculous.”

With Quality, Kweli has also thrown out all borders as
far as style, bringing in elements of rock, reggae and classic
soul, particularly on “Talk to You,” a new take on late Temptations
legend Eddie Kendricks’ “Can I.” “When I played my mother that
song, she said to me, ‘Wow, all these records are records that were
in the house, that you grew up with,'” he says. “And I never
thought about why I picked the particular records I liked. But my
mother made it clear to me that it was a record that was played a
lot when I was younger. And that probably has a lot to do with why
I wanted to do it. Hip-hop is a great foundation, because you can
make a great collage. So we take advantage of that whenever
possible.”

As for what’s next, Kweli plans to keep plenty busy. He plans to
promote Quality through the usual channels, and is also
primed to begin his next album, though he hasn’t decided what
format it will take.

Quality track listing:

Intro
Gun Music
Feel the Rush
We Come Through

Joy
The Proud
Put It in the Air
Stand to the Side
Where Do We Go
Guerilla Monsoon Rap
Good to You
Get By
Space

Won’t You Stay
Talk to You (Lil’ Darlin’)
Waitin’ for the DJ

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