Talib Kweli Talks Idle Warship's New Project, Shares Why It's Not Hip-Hop

Talib Kweli appreciates all fan support, but be careful on how you compliment him. Habits of the Heart, the Brooklyn emcee’s latest album with Philly vocalist Res as the duo Idle Warship, is a poppy, dance-ready departure from the soulful, boom bap formula he’s perfected since the late 1990s. So if you give his new record props by using the oft-abused phrase “real hip-hop,” you need more people. “If you … told me [Idle Warship] was ‘true hip-hop,’ you didn’t listen to it. You’re just supporting your idea of what you like about me, and I’m not mad at that,” Kweli explains. “But it’s definitely misguided to say, ‘Idle Warship is a hip-hop album.’” In an interview with VIBE, Talib gives the scoop on debunking genre myths with Res, why the new Black Star records with Mos Def are unlikely to result in an album, and explains why boycotting Tyler Perry for casting Kim Kardashian is hustling backwards. — William Ketchum III

You’ve done entire projects with pretty notable names. You did the Black Star record with Mos Def, the Reflection Eternal albums with Hi-Tek, and Liberation with Madlib. What kind of things do you look for in a partner when you’re teaming up for an entire album?

Integrity and the relationship. I was in Cincinnatti working with Mood, and just kept picking Hi-Tek’s beats. Mos Def and I, our style and our musical interests, where we lived at, and even the fact that we have children of the same age is what made Black Star happen. Res has always been around, and we wanted to get out of the box people placed us into with this project. With Madlib, I was working on Eardrum, and there were too many Madlib beats I wanted to pick for the album to not credit him. That’s how Liberation got created.

Like you said, this album is much different from what you guys have done in the past. Many people may not see you as the conscious, boom bap soulful rapper, but what box is Res in?

Res is someone who’s looked at as alternative soul, neo-soul, or some sort of weird, rock-based thing, but it’s hard to define. Since she’s from Philly and is Black, people automatically say, “She’s neo-soul,” but she’s not. There’s nothing neo-soul about what she’s done. Since she works with me, people say, “Oh she’s hip-hop soul,” but she’s not hip-hop soul. Res is really her own type of rock thing. But that [causes fan restrictions] too, because she does the softer, alternative rock thing, and sometimes people don’t see how she can hear to a club beat or an uptempo dance type of thing. So that’s what Idle does for her.

So what kind of feedback have you gotten from fans who have placed you in those boxes?

I was a little worried about the feedback, but I’m excited. The people who took a chance on the record really seem to love it, and even the people who expected the worst are pleasantly surprised. This is the feedback I’ve gotten, I haven’t seen much negative feedback. I expected people, at the very least, to be honest, like, “OK, Kweli is trying something different, and it’s not really for me.” But I’m not even getting that—I’m getting people that say, “I’m really enjoying it.”

I think part of the positive reception is that the album sounds really organic. It doesn’t just sound like you were trying to be different, but it’s how that genre is actually made. A lot of rappers are trying to expand outside of conventional rap sounds now, but it sounds forced.

That was really important for us, for it to sound organic. It’s very, very important that people don’t look at this as a money grab. People see me as an underground artist, and this is underground hip-hop. This music probably has a bigger chance of achieving pop success than most of the stuff I’ve put out through my career. So it may be easy for people to look at this like, “They’re switching it up because it ain’t working for them,” and I don’t want people to come away from it like that. Hip-hop has been very good to me. I paid for this record myself, and I wouldn’t be in the position to fund something fun and ballsy like this, if I wasn’t successful with what I was doing in hip-hop.

This isn’t to take away from anything I’m doing. If this isn’t for you, you can pick up Gutter Rainbows, or Prisoner of Consciousness, which is coming out the top of next year. It’s really, truly how that music was supposed to sound. We focused very much on making sure it was authentic, sincere and genuine. There’s a song on the end as a bonus cut called “Burning Desire,” that’s on if you bought it on iTunes. The reason that’s a bonus cut is because that’s actually the song I think crosses that line. When I hear that track, to me, it sounds like what’s trending in the club. Even though I love what we did on it, and I was proud of what we did on it, I was hesitant to put it on the album, so it’s a bonus cut.

On Habits Of The Heart, she’s really the most prominent voice than she is on your solo records, when she’s just complementing a track or two. Was that a different process for you, to not be the main voice on these songs that you usually are?

Yeah, but there’s a lot of different strands to what you just said. Idle started, from my perspective, as a showcase for Res. I’m a huge Res fan, and to me she never got her due, so people don’t know how dope she is. So a lot of me falling back on the record is to showcase her. I’m more famous than she is, but I wanted people to really appreciate what she brings to the table, and I don’t want it to depend on me being witty or clever in a verse for people to get into it. I wanted Res to be the hook, and I think she did a good job on the album.


The other part of that is the issue is that I have so many things going on, from Black Star to my solo work, that logistically, it would be hard for me to be all over that album, and also promote Black Star, and also promote my solo album Prisoner of Consciousness. It’s hard enough as it is already, but me not being so prominent vocally on the songs makes it easier. I am more prominent behind the scenes on this album. Making an executive decision, paying for stuff, setting things up, and the access I have to the record industry has allowed this record to happen. But the savvy music writer will notice that Res is at the forefront of this project.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Kevin Winter

Donnie McClurkin Sent To Hospital Following Car Accident

Gospel legend Donnie McClurkin couldn't be more grateful after surviving a car accident this past Wednesday (Dec. 12).

The "We Fall Down" singer was driving on the road in the earlier part of the day when he passed out and began weaving into traffic. He reportedly struck the middle concrete island.

Following the incident, he posted a selfie of him on the hospital bed in scrubs on Facebook. Along with the photo, he explained that he woke up from the accident with stitches on his left thumb, on top of having a sprained wrist, and hurt knee. His car was also completely totaled.

"I AM ALIVE!!!! Somewhat mangled, stitches on left thumb, sprained wrist, hurt knee, but I’m still here! God and two angels saved my life!," the Grammy-winning artist wrote.

He also mentioned that two "angels" pulled him out the car to safety and medical attention. "I owe them...I am still here by the grace of God! Thank you, Lord...thank you!" he added.

On Friday (Dec. 14), McClurkin posted to his Facebook page again, sharing several photos of his destroyed car. "This is the totaled car that two angels rescued me from ....after passing out while driving I don’t remember most of what happened a day and a half ago...but God," he wrote. "I overrode doctors and sisters advice and flew to KENYA today for ministry Saturday @ TWO RIVERS. and home on this Sunday to celebrate life."

In happier news, McClurkin also took time to plug in his new Christmas single titled "My Favorite Things." Check out McClurkin's posts on social media and stream his new song below.

READ MORE: Big K.R.I.T. Drops Surprise Gospel-Influenced 'Thrice X' EP

Continue Reading
Douglas Grundy

Nicki Minaj's Boyfriend Kenneth Petty Received 18 Violations During Prison Stint

Nicki Minaj's new boyfriend, Kenneth Petty has a very troubled past.

On Friday (Dec. 14), TMZ revealed court documents disclosing Petty's history of disciplinary actions while he was an inmate in New York for manslaughter from 2006 to 2013.

When he entered the correctional facility, he was reportedly written up for creating a disturbance. Later during his stint, he was hit with a slew of disciplinary actions following a series of violent actions that included fighting, making terroristic threats, and "disobeying a direct order."

In 2009, prison faculty placed him in solitary confinement for four months as part of being reprimanded for nine different violations. Petty lost privileges that included the usage of the inmate telephone service, recreational activity, and the prison canteen.

In addition to his prison violations, Petty is a convicted sex offender. At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult served a four-year sentence for attempted rape of a minor.

Petty, who hails from the same borough as Nicki, Queens, knew the platinum-selling rap star since she was a teenager. They dated for a short period years prior to reuniting.

Minaj posted various photos of her and Petty going on a vacation getaway earlier this month. Sources close to Minaj told the celebrity gossip website that the 36-year-old hip-hop artist is  "happier than she's been in years" with Petty.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Barbie® (@nickiminaj) on Dec 10, 2018 at 12:43pm PST

READ MORE: Nicki Minaj Plans To Sue 'Daily Mail' TV Host Jesse Palmer

Continue Reading
John Moore

Sandy Hook Elementary Evacuates After Bomb Threat On 6th Anniversary Of Mass Shooting

Sandy Hook Elementary School was reportedly forced to evacuate its students and administration on Friday (Dec. 14), after receiving a bomb threat, CNN reports. The incident occurred on the sixth anniversary of the school's tragic mass shooting.

Newtown, Connecticut Police Lt. Aaron Bahamonde stated that the threat didn't appear to be substantial, but they decided to  evacuate the facility as an extra precaution.

Bomb squads reportedly swept the school and surrounding area for explosive devices but did not discover anything on the property. They later concluded that there was no immediate threat. The school administration dismissed students and faculty for the rest of the day however, considering the previous incident.

As previously noted, Sandy Hook endured a horrific mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult, staff members.

Earlier this month, thousands of documents were released about Lanza that revealed his mental state and social status in the years leading up to the shooting.

The shooting is not believed to be in connection to the recent string of bomb scares around the nation that targeted major politicians including the former first families Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Continue Reading

Top Stories