Music

The Secret History Of Talib Kweli’s “Quality”

Source: YouTube

The Guest MCs and Singers: Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Xzibit, Cocoa Brovas, Reese, Vinia Mojica, Kendra Ross.

“Everybody you named were people I was hanging out with. You just named my immediate crew. Even Xzibit was somebody who would call me up when he came New York. I started my career with Digga at SOB’s Lyricist Lounge. Kendra Ross, we were in college together at NYU. I was hanging out with her when I was going to A Tribe Called Quest concerts at Howard Homecoming and she was interning for Diddy. Those were just the people who were around me. It just so happened I was around a great group of people.”

“Guerilla Monsoon Rap”

“That’s the first beat I ever picked from Kanye. Kanye came to the studio while I was working on “The Joy” and he invited himself to the session because he heard Mos Def was gonna be there. I didn’t know who he was, but when he said his name I knew the name because I liked the songs he produced for Beanie Sigel. I was like ‘Mos is not here, play me some beats.’ And in that session he played the beat for “Good to You” and “Guerilla Monsoon Rap”. But I remember picking “Gorilla Monsoon Rap” immediately. Kanye was a little bit more humble on that day, but a year later when we recorded “Gorilla Monsoon Rap,” a lot had happened to him. So he was a lot more confident. I remember him really wanting to have a verse on the song and my thing was, ‘Huh? You haven’t earned a verse on this song.’ Talking about me, Black Thought and Pharoahe Monch, I don’t think Kanye fit in that. In 2001? Just calm down. Maybe I’ll let you on the hook. Kanye was acting so much like he was gonna be on the song, when Pharoahe laid his verse he said, ‘See these four MCs came to get down,’ [including Kanye]. But it was really three MCs. I think Kanye even had a verse, but it was too long. So we kept him on the hook, which was a great hook.”

“The Joy”

“I had children by then, a three-year old daughter and an eight-year-old son. I felt like my kids inspired me to get to that point where I was at. I was very interested in dealing with the whole midwife thing. I think the midwife thing is a good way to go. My experience dealing with the hospitals as a father and a man wasn’t good. That’s something I wanted to explore through song. I remember I felt like I was on a corner and somebody was trying to sell me weed the way they were pushing the drugs and epidurals. Why are you pushing all these things that cost money? My son was born at Downstate and one of the unfortunate by-products of poor neighborhoods are children are born and fathers aren’t around for a lot of reasons. So they’re not used to fathers being around. That’s my anecdotal experience. There is this focus from the state in trying to separate the family.”

“Won’t You Stay” f/ Kendra Ross, produced by Super Dave West

“I remember I was having a lot of drama in my personal relationship. I wanted to do a song with Kendra, I love Kendra, she’s one of my best friends ever and I wanted her on the hook. The Dave West beat is gorgeous so I gave it to Kendra and she wrote the hook first. I wrote my verses around the hook she wrote. It was about being a recording artist and a working man and trying to explain to your significant other that you have to work and have to go and the problems with being outside the home and you don’t want to bring that energy back. Just trying to give voice to significant others who experience their partners leaving and not being invested in the relationship the way they want them to be. I had lunch with Kendra the other day and she is such a strong Black woman. I was rehearsing for my Blue Note show thinking 2017 Kendra wouldn’t have written that hook.”

Talib Kweli performed Quality at The Blue Note for the first time on September 7, 2015 as part of a 15th Anniversary slate of shows.

It was good. “Waiting For the DJ” was a record I performed a lot back then. “Good to You,” “Talk To You” and “Shock Body” were records I performed a lot, but I hadn’t performed them in years. So I was worried. I went to rehearsal and I went over them, but I was worried that I would flub them onstage but a muscle kicked back in so strong. “Oh shit I’m remembering this,” was the thought I was having as they were coming out of my mouth. I was like I got this.

You can stream Talib Kweli’s latest album Radio Silence here and support the album which is out now!

Jerry Barrow is the founder of NODFACTOR and a veteran journalist with stints at The Source, Scratch Magazine and The Urban Daily. Follow his work (and ours!) on Twitter @JLBarrow.

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