In 2002, Talib Kweli Greene had something to prove. After releasing two very successful and critically celebrated projects with the artist formerly known as Mos Def, 1998’s Black Star, and 2000’s Train Of Thought with DJ Hi-Tek, the Brooklyn MC found himself needing to plan a solo mission like Harrison Ford.
“I had two albums that people said were classic but in my mind I was a brand new artist,” says Talib. “I wanted to challenge myself and the audience that I could do a project where I was steering the ship and it be as good as if I had Mos Def or Hi-Tek, who were two of the best possible partners you could ask for making hip-hop music.”
If Talib had his way we may not have gotten a solo project from him. But circumstances beyond his control forced him to adapt.
“The brass tax of it is I love collaboration. The follow up to a Black Star album would have been another Black Star album. I would have been happy to do that. [But] Mos Def was acting and his headspace was more into becoming a solo artist. If Hi-Tek wanted to do another Reflection Eternal album, I would have been happy to do that. But me and Hi-Tek had a fissure where my bread and butter was coming from touring. I was doing the Okayplayer tour and the Spitkicker Tour. But his bread and butter was coming from producing beats. He was working with Dr. Dre, Snoop, etc. and he was developing relationships where it became more conducive for him to stay at home in the studio and work on beats. I understand that now as an adult 15 years later, but back then it was tough for both of us. He didn’t want to go on the road, but I was living on the road.
I realized that Hi-Tek is staying home, Mos Def is acting, I needed to have my own. [Recording Quality] was more of a practical thing than this desire to go solo. I would have been happy going back into those group situations.”
With the good will of two successful group projects under his belt, his label Rawkus forged on with a solo Kweli album. But as Talib Kweli shares with @Okayplayer in this latest Secret History, going solo doesn’t mean going it alone.
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