Talib Kweli Explains How A Tribe Called Quest Fathered Hip-Hop Music As We Know It (Video)
Talib Kweli is one of the distinguished guests on A Tribe Called Quest’s final album. Appearing on “The Killing Season,” Kweli worked alongside Q-Tip, Jarobi White, and the late Phife Dawg. The album has topped the charts, and become one of music’s most talked about releases in 2016.
Speaking with VladTV, Kweli opened up about joining the fold for We got it from Here…Thank You 4 your service. What began as Talib Kweli recording sessions at Q-Tip’s New Jersey home studio gave way to the Reflection Eternal MC playing witness to a major milestone. “Dave Chappelle [and] Chris Rock were around for a lot of it, ’cause they was in the studio, kickin’ it. They was very inspirational to the process, I think…which is what led to the SNL situation [with Dave Chappelle hosting],” says the Brooklyn, New Yorker. “I went over to [Q-Tip’s home studio to] work on a record for my new album, that we’d been working on for years. When I got there, him and Jarobi were working on that Tribe. They was working on an album. So I was like, ‘Fuck my song.’ I sat in the corner and was a student. I was ‘grasshopper.'”
Talib also reveals that even before he was attached to the album, or ever knew it to be recording, he affected its creation. “[Jarobi] told me he wrote his verse for ‘The Killing Season’ when he had watched me on CNN with Don Lemon. It was just divinity that I ended up on the record with him, when that’s where he got the inspiration for the verse.”
Vlad and Talib enter a discussion about A Tribe Called Quest’s massive impact on Hip-Hop and its sound. Talib Kweli touches on his own personal journey, which ties greatly to Tribe. From Dilla’s “Lightworks” to Black Eyed Peas’ “Like That,” Talib has worked with Q-Tip. His Reflection Eternal partner, Hi-Tek, also worked extensively with Phife.
“There’s producers that I work with, like Dave West and 88-Keys that got their start from working with Q-Tip. That sound, that’s [perfection]. If you were to encapsulate Hip-Hop: put it in a time capsule and aliens were to come down and [ask], ‘What’s brilliant Hip-Hop sound like?’ You’re gonna play them a A Tribe Called Quest record. Q-Tip introduced [many people] to J Dilla. And Dilla, arguably, might have mastered the Tribe Called Quest sound better than anybody.” He continues, “It’s the type of Hip-Hop that nobody can front on. You can’t front on it…if you’ve got a soul, if you’ve ever been in love, this is music you cannot front on. And you’re right, Q-Tip is the father of that. We are all his sons. Pharrell says that in the [Beats, Rhymes & Life] documentary: we are his sons. Kanye West: Q-Tip’s son. Black Star: we come from this.”
Getting even more specific, the Javotti Media co-founder adds, “Like, I had these dudes’ posters on my wall. If you look on my Instagram right now, there’s a picture of me, 15 years old. I’m in The Building nightclub. I’m with Jarobi and I’m with Ali. I was 15 years old, and I took pictures with everybody in the club. A Tribe Called Quest is so much a part of my psyche, I forgot…until I was at Tip’s house working on the album that Jarobi was the one who got me in the club that night. And Jarobi remembered, and we wasn’t [even] friends, and I wasn’t ‘a rapper.’ I was just some 15 year-old kid. He was like, ‘I remember I got you in that club.’ Tribe Called Quest, on an abstract level, no pun intended, and in a very literal, visceral, real, in-the-flesh sense, A Tribe Called Quest has been integral to my career. My first Lyricist Lounge performance, in S.O.B.’s, when I brought [DJ] Hi-Tek beats that got my name buzzing in the streets of New York…Q-Tip hosted that. Danny and Anthony, Q-Tip hosted. Rah Digga performed, Problemz performed, Young Zee performed, and I got on stage. And Q-Tip was like, ‘Yo, you nice.’ That’s when I knew when I really had a shot at making music for a living.”
Furthermore, Kweli, who revealed that he is not religious, uses the example of Phife Dawg’s death amidst a personal reunion to illustrate his vision of spirituality. “No one knew that Phife was gonna leave and join the ancestors this soon. If you’ve got somebody that you love, tell ’em love ’em today. Hug ’em, call ’em.” He later says, “The fact that we take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, and the trees take the carbon dioxide and turn into oxygen, which we then take and breathe in. This is the cycle of life. This is all…everything that’s together, that’s what God is. People don’t know what to call that, so they call it ‘God’ and give it human traits. And they’re trying to come up with an explanation for the unknown. But there’s things that you see in life that prove that there’s something above us, whether it be a great piece of art, whether you hear a symphony, or a Q-Tip or a J Dilla beat. When you think about the fact that [Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s] relationship was repaired, and they started working on this album together, and right when they got enough material to really create an album Phife was taken away from us, that to me is God. That’s God’s plan. It seems sad and tragic, but we also have to celebrate the plan. This is how it’s supposed to be. Phife’s left us with so much. His body might not be working, but his spirit, what Phife Dawg and A Tribe Called Quest has given to the world is indelible. It’ll go nowhere; he’ll be alive forever.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Talib states his skepticism that Black Star partner Yasiin Bey will ever stop writing verses, even if he retires from albums and concerts.