Talib Kweli Releases New & Personal Album on His Website

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Acclaimed hip-hop artist Talib Kweli continues to push the boundaries of rap music.

The rapper’s sixth solo studio release, Gravitas, maintains his position as a pioneer in music and the subgenre known as conscious rap. Recorded during his Heist tour, the album will please fans as Kweli maintains his status as a thoughtful and thought provoking artist. Only this time, fans may be pleasantly surprised by lyrics that are far more personal than what they may be used to with Kweli.


The recently concluded Heist tour with Ryan Lewis and Macklemore, as well as appearances in various unlikely places like DirecTV’s Guitar Center Sessions triggered a fresh creative outlet for Kweli. He had been pondering the idea of more personal work that explored his musical career, his expectations and the actual experiences, and decided to focus on these topics for his newest record. As Kweli told Entertainment.com, “One of my favorite things about today’s hip-hop is the honesty.”

Kweli decided to be a little honest about himself. “I have never truly told my story through music. My true fans have heard bits and pieces through the years, but Gravitas sums my experience until now.”

Gravitas will also be unique in that it will initially be available only on Kweli’s website starting December 15 (though there will be vinyl and CD versions released through independent label Fat Beats in February of next year). Fans may want to grab the digital copy now and see what Kweli’s been up to, as Gravitas is jam-packed with top talent behind and in front of the mic, including Rah Digga, J Dilla, Thaddeus Dixon, RES and OhNo.

Despite the personal direction, the music maintains Kweli’s reputation as one of the most conscious voices in rap. Even as the music asks us to walk a lyrical mile in his sneakers, Kweli still manages to decry the inequities, the discrimination and all types of societal illness with a conviction that imparts awareness, knowledge and self discovery. Yet, as always, he does so in an uplifting way. Unlike more popular rappers who dwell on the darkness, Kweli wants us to understand that the negativity doesn’t mean we’re terrible people in a terrible world.

Though recognized as a leading voice in conscious rap, Kweli dismisses any labeling of his music or status. “If an artist is labeled ‘gangsta rap,’ all the so-called conscious rap fans won’t check for them,” Kweli says. “But they would find gems and jewels if they heard it. I’ll play Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt for someone and they’ll be surprised. I’ll say, ‘Well, you assumed Jay-Z is a gangsta rapper.’ ”

Born in Brooklyn, Kweli first came on the music scene in the mid-90s when he performed on Mood’s Doom CD. During those sessions, he met DJ Hi-Tek, which led to the duo crafting underground recordings that snagged attention. He would eventually team up with another socially conscious rapper, Mos Def, and form Black Star. Their Hi-Tek produced album, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, was a modest hit with record buyers but was universally hailed by critics. Kweli continued to produce modest hits that were critically lauded throughout the 2000s, working with the likes of Q-Tip, Lord Quest and Rich Kidd.

Unlike a lot of young men in his field, Kweli has never traded his approach to music for mainstream success. Whether he wants the title or not he continues to be a conscious rapper and accepts it. “Things have been put into neat little boxes to be packaged or sold. It’s easier to sell things like that. What I do is so much more dynamic than ‘conscious rap.’” In the end, Kweli says, “I can’t be pigeonholed.”

That the album is dropping so close to the passing of Nelson Mandela is appropriate. The so called “political terrorist” has had a tremendous influence on Kweli’s lyrics and view of the world. He marvels at how Mandela unflinchingly stood by what’s right, regardless of the consequences and ended up changing the world. Like all Kweli’s music, Gravitas promotes those same principles with that same conviction to everyone that wants to hear it.

Gravitas can be purchased and downloaded from the artist’s website.

By Kate Voss

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