Do Remember: Talib Kweli & DJ Quik’s Put It In The Air (Audio)
Few artists have the excitement leading into their solo debut as Talib Kweli, especially by 2000s standards. Entering Quality, the Brooklyn, New York MC had already found success with two groups, Black Star and Reflection Eternal. Both acts, duos with Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek, respectively, had been met with massive critical acclaim, along with strong traction on the charts.
With a crisp vocal delivery and piercing insights into Hip-Hop, society, and New York City, Talib Kweli Greene went to work on his completely autonomous vision. Approaching the cleverly-named Quality, Talib incorporated an ensemble of artists not strange to the Rawkus Records wheel-house, or his own clique. Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Bilal, Xzibit, Smif n’ Wessun, and Black Thought were just some of those involved. On production, Hi-Tek stepped out, allowing J Dilla (and also the Soulquarians), DJ Scratch, Supa Dave West, and Ayatollah to step in. A relative unknown named Kanye West would also sign on, producing two of the MCA Records-distributed LP’s three singles.
However, one name stood out to those who picked up Quality: DJ Quik. The Compton, California producer/DJ/MC was less than seven years removed from Safe + Sound, a Gangsta Rap hallmark, but the sort of album that seemed oppositional to the MC preaching “The Manifesto.” Long before Kweli would surprise fans through work with Nelly, Bow Wow, and Gucci Mane, Quik seemed to stand out. The onetime affiliate for Tupac, Eazy-E, and Hi-C fit Quality well though. “Put It In The Air” (heard several months earlier on Soundbombing III) met each artist halfway. As a guest MC and the song’s producer, Quik gave Kweli nothing different than he’d give 2nd II None or AMG. Cool, calm, and interested mostly in the females, the CPT MC provided a danceable bassline with careful accents, and a laid back verse about chillin’. Similarly, Kweli treated the song as if he was passin’ the mic with Shabaam Sahdeeq or Main Flow. The MC kids about mispronunciation of his name, his love of rollin’ up, and his (West Coast) surroundings.
For Quik fans, the moment was a continued exploration. Along with Dr. Dre, Suga Free, and James Debarge, Kweli was a guest on that summer’s Under Tha Influence. Moreover, ‘Lib appeared on “Tha Poem,” alongside an unlikely grouping of Hi-C and Shyheim The Rugged Child. Quik’s own gestalt of collaborators and sounds was a growing trademark for the now-independent.
Before far-reaching collaborations became a standard, or unlikely artists searched for creative synergy, Kweli and Quik made it look natural. Before Talib would seamlessly work with UGK or Curren$y, “Put It In Tha Air” was stepping out. Before he mixed Murs’ Murs For President with analog equipment or got busy with the X-Clan, David Blake let everybody know that walls don’t exist when it comes to the language of the drum.