Talib Kweli - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman  

Talib Kweli: You Don't Know Me


You may think you know who Talib Kweli is, but according to him, you really don't. This has never been more evident than on his second solo LP The Beautiful Struggle. With Kweli receiving an abundant amount of hate and disappointment from critics and fans alike for his new album, Talib finds himself in an unusual position. Throughout his career Kweli has always been on the receiving end of critical acclaim, but not this time. With his back against the wall, Kweli is adamant that people only think they know who he is, but in reality, they are all wrong. In a brutally honest interview with MVRemix, Kweli addresses the hate surrounding The Beautiful Struggle.

MVRemix: Let us start by talking about The Beautiful Struggle. Have you been pleased with how the album has been received so far?

Talib Kweli: The reaction and responses I have gotten from people in the streets have been stellar. But I have gotten more mixed reviews than I am used to getting from magazines. Which is strange, because before I got all this critical acclaim, and nobody on the streets related to my music. Now when I do shows, the songs that people love the most are the ones that are getting dissed in the magazines. So its very confusing, because now I'm thinking that maybe I should have been doing these types of songs a long time ago.

MVRemix: That has always been the battle between the underground and mainstream, as its nearly impossible to satisfy both crowds. But from what I have been reading from all the reviews, it seems a lot of critics are harping on the production, stating that it's not on the level it used to be.

Talib Kweli: Which I'm baffled by, because I think the production on this album is excellent. And yeah, the production isn't the same as it used to be, but that's because I'm not the same person I used to be. The first record I put out was almost 10 years ago, and my music has changed a lot since then. But I think the production is excellent on this album, as I have a mix of producers who are known and who are not known, but have a catalogue of great work.

MVRemix: Have you been pleased with how the record has been selling and how Geffen has been promoting the album?

Talib Kweli: No, I'm not happy at all with how Geffen has been handling the record. Rawkus didn't have anywhere near as many resources as Geffen has but they were a lot more passionate about the records. But they could only take the records so far. But now Geffen isn't putting any work in, so the record isn't reaching that level. So its really always been about the work that I have put in, no matter which album or record label.

MVRemix: Yeah, I kind of noticed that. There was hardly any promotion, but right before the album dropped they made a late push with the video and everything.

Talib Kweli: Right, because they are just in their little office in Santa Monica, and are out of touch.

MVRemix: What do you think separates Beautiful Struggle from Quality?

Talib Kweli: With this album, I picked the beats first and I decided to let the tracks decide what I was going to talk about.

MVRemix: And Quality was the other way around?

Talib Kweli: Right, and that is why it's so interesting that people didn't like the tracks. Because all that means is people do not know who I am as an artist. I picked those beats first because they were the ones I loved.

MVRemix: If the Kweli of 1999 heard The Beautiful Struggle, what do you think he would say?

Talib Kweli: I would think its an excellent album, because this album is a continuation of where I want to go.

MVRemix: Do you think its fair that no matter what kind of album you drop from here on out, it is always going to be compared to your classic Reflection Eternal album?

Talib Kweli: I mean, I used to think like that. A friend of mine, Dream, told me something I remember when we were talking about The Roots album, and she was like "I don't ever compare albums, I let them stand on their own. Because, if you start comparing albums, they are never going to be what you want them to be, and that is not fair to the artists. You have to take every album for what it is". And I think that is an excellent point! Reflection Eternal, is my favorite album that I have done, but maybe in a year it will be The Beautiful Struggle. But I don't compare them. I think The Beautiful Struggle is a different energy, and it has to be. Reflection Eternal was two dudes in a studio with no resources, working from their hearts and putting everything into it. The Beautiful Struggle is my complete vision of who I am. It's not a compromise of me and Hi-Tek. And maybe people don't like who I am, or what my vision is. Maybe, they prefer my vision with Hi-Tek. But what a lot of my fans don't realize is.some of my fans will come up to me and say "I don't like The Beautiful Struggle as much as Reflection Eternal". But for every fan that says that, I get two more that come up to me and tell me they think Beautiful Struggle is a great step above anything I have ever done. So it can be confusing when you are getting those types of responses from people.

MVRemix: What is going to be the second single off of the album?

Talib Kweli: I don't know, what do you think it should be?

MVRemix: I like the Neptune's joint "Broken Glass". I think its a good song with a hot beat and a dope message.

Talib Kweli: That is one of those songs that some people don't like, from what I have read.

MVRemix: I don't know, I really like that song.

Talib Kweli: I was considering that song to be the first single. But I like that song a lot, I think its a great song.

MVRemix: I also like "Around My Way".

Talib Kweli: "Around My Way" has been dissed by the magazines, but people just call me out of the blue and tell me they love that song. Hands down, that is the song that people like the most. And its funny, because that is the song people love the most by a land slide, but all I read is negative things about it in the press. Which is bugged, but I don't get it. I am also thinking about putting "Never Been In Love" as the next single.

>>> continued...

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"A friend of mine, Dream, told me something I remember when we were talking about The Roots album, and she was like "I don't ever compare albums, I let them stand on their own. Because, if you start comparing albums, they are never going to be what you want them to be..."