Talib Kweli is always on the lookout for rising talent, so when it came time to recruit emcees for his Prisoner of Conscious track “Push Thru,” he knew to enlist Rolling Stone cover star Kendrick Lamar for the 2013 track.
“Kendrick is somebody who in his music is very much aligned with movement and activism and the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement,” Talib Kweli tells Rolling Stone in a new interview on what the mainstream success of rapper Kendrick Lamar means. “I hear that movement in his lyrics.”
Kweli uses a scene from the Parks & Recreation finale to expound on the significance of a rapper as socially conscious as Lamar reaching beyond primarily black communities. “For [his] name to have so much recognition that it makes it to a joke on that show is impressive for someone who started on the mixtapes,” says Kweli.
Kweli also notes how Lamar’s versatility has allowed myriad subcultures to “claim” him as their own. “It’s very interesting that everyone is trying to claim Kendrick in their audience. The underground, ‘real’ hip-hop fans are saying Kendrick Lamar is to us. The mainstream pop is saying he’s to us. And he’s just trying to figure it out.”
To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar’s highly anticipated follow-up to his 2012 major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city was surprise-released Sunday night, one week earlier than expected.
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In his Rolling Stone cover story, the Compton rapper described the new material as “fearful, honest and unapologetic” as it explores the landscape of being black in America throughout history and up to this very moment. “You take a black kid out of Compton and put him in the limelight, and you find answers about yourself you never knew you were searching for,” he said. “There’s some stuff in there, man. It’s a roller coaster. It builds.”
Kweli’s last studio album, Gravitas, was released in 2013. He recently signed rapper Niko Is, who released his latest album Brutus in February, through his label Javotti Music.