Talib Kweli Greene, 3 October 1975, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA. One of the leading alternative rap artists of his generation, Kweli has amassed a body of work that stands alongside the Afrocentric rappers that inspired him as a teenager. As the son of two professors Kweli was always going to eschew the street thuggery of many of his contemporaries, and his musical tastes (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest) reflected a more thoughtful take on life as a black American. He began recording in the late 90s, first with Mood (the TVT album Doom) and then alongside Mos Def in Black Star. The duos self-titled 1998 album was pivotal in helping shape both the future direction and the widespread acceptance of alternative rap.
Black Star disbanded shortly after the release of the album, and with Mos Def embarking on a solo career the next project for Kweli was a duo album with Black Star producer Hi-Tek. Released in 2000 on the influential Rawkus label, and credited to Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal, Train Of Thought enjoyed some crossover success owing to the popularity of the singles The Blast and Move Somethin, while the anti-violence slant of Kwelis lyrics drew admiring reviews from critics.
Rawkus subsequently released Kwelis solo debut in 2002. Quality featured two writing and production outings for future rap superstar Kanye West (notably the minor hit Get By), with additional producers including DJ Quik and DJ Scratch. Blending thoughtful, incisive lyrics with a commercial production style, the album was hailed as one of the years most impressive releases. The 2004 follow-up, The Beautiful Struggle, was primed for Kwelis long overdue commercial success, with guest vocals from Mary J. Blige, Common, Faith Evans and Anthony Hamilton and producers including West, the Neptunes and Just Blaze on board. The end result was strained and awkward, however, a shortcoming not many would have expected from the previously exemplary Kweli.
Following the disappointing reception for The Beautiful Struggle, Kweli parted company with Rawkus and set up his own Blacksmith Records label. He also released a number of high-profile mixtapes and made notable contributions to albums by Kanye West and DangerDoom. In January 2007, a collaboration between Kweli and producer Madlib was made available for free download for a week only before being removed and subsequently re-released on CD. Later in the year Kweli enjoyed the best chart showing of his career when the solo Eardrum debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.