Talib Kweli Recalls How Blown Away He Was By An Unsigned Kanye West’s Talent (Video)

Talib Kweli and Kanye West have made several notable collaborations. That artistry began 14 years ago, with the release of the Brooklyn, New York MC’s first solo album, Quality. Following acclaimed full-length projects with Black Star and Reflection Eternal, the Rawkus Records flagship artist embarked on his first release through the label’s expanded MCA Records distribution.

While recording in New York City, Kweli says his Black Star partner was late to one particular studio session. Appearing on this week’s Drink Champs Podcast (hosted by N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN), the Javotti Media founder explains, “Kanye West comes through the [studio] door. I’m doing a session for my Quality album, and I’m waiting on Mos Def to show up, because we have a song on my Quality album called ‘Joy.’ I’m rapping about my kids, and my kids’ birth, and Mos Def is on it. It took him a long time to record this verse. By this time, he was doing movies; he was blowing up.” Mos Def had released his own solo debut, 1999’s Black On Both Sides, which was certified gold. “So I’m trying to get in touch with him; it was hard to get in touch with him. Kanye comes through the door. I’d never seen this nigga, never heard this nigga. He said, ‘I’m here to meet Mos Def.’ I said, ‘Well guess what? He might not show up,'” Talib recalls with a chuckle. Kanye explained that Mos had requested the meeting to hear some of the young producer’s beats. “I said, ‘Well, play me the beats; I’m working on an album’,” Talib says. “He played me four beats that night. All them beats made it to my album.” The final version of Quality included three West tracks in singles “Get By” and “Good To You,” as well as “Guerilla Monsoon Rap,” which included early West vocals. “I couldn’t believe how good these beats was, ’cause I had never heard of him.”

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That same year, Kweli brought Kanye West to join him on Common’s Electric Circus Tour. On the bus together, he came to understand ‘Ye’s own vision for his arts. “This nigga played me ‘Jesus Walks’ when I first met him,” Talib says, clarifying that it was in the first month of their collaborative friendship. That would have been years before The College Dropout released. As the Indie 500 MC recalls, it was the finished version that would later win a Grammy Award at a time before the MC/producer had signed with Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records. “He played me ‘Hey Mama,’ I said, ‘I’ve never heard nothing so beautiful in my life.'” That song would appear on 2005’s Late Registration, two years before West’s mother, Dr. Donda West, would pass away. “He played me a bunch of those songs […] I said, ‘You need to put these shits out now.’ He said, ‘No, no, no. This was before he had a deal—no deal! He said, ‘My first album is called College Dropout, and [I will include] these songs. My next album is called Late Registration, the ‘Hey Mama,’ that’s gonna be on [that]. ‘Jesus Walks’ is gonna be my single from College Dropout. When he put it out, ‘Jesus Walks’ was the single. He even says it on the [verse] to the song [forecasting it].”

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The full podcast with Talib Kweli as a guest with N.O.R.E. (who also worked with Kanye West) and DJ EFN is available at DrinkChamps.com.

Talib Kweli is a headliner (with Nas and Fabolous) at next month’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.