Talib Kweli Reflects On A “Train Of Thought” Song That Remains Eternal 17 Years Later (Audio)

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Last week, Mos Def’s solo debut Black On Both Sides celebrated its 18th birthday. Meanwhile, today (October 17), Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey’s Black Star partner, and DJ Hi-Tek honor the 17th anniversary of Reflection Eternal’s Train Of Thought. Both Rawkus Records releases are benchmark albums to Hip-Hop, as well as an independent movement that challenged the mainstream consciousness during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Talib Kweli spoke to The Library With Tim Einenkel about a resonant song from R.E.’s 2000 debut that was not a single, but an everlasting moment of the album’s lyrical and musical greatness. The host asks the Brooklyn, New York MC about “Africa Dream” after the 21:00 mark of a collaboration with late friend Weldon Irvine. In the song, a fiery Kweli emphatically spit: “These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain / Like slaves on a ship talking about who got the flyest chain.

Talib tells Tim, “That lyric was something that was years in the making. The concept of ‘whips and chains’… you know we call our cars whips; wearing a lot of chains. Even before movies like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, [where] Robert Townsend made fun of the Hip-Hop chain [phenomenon]. De La Soul and their video for ‘Me, Myself and I.’ All the guys were wearing the chains and here comes De La, and they’re not wearing the chains. That’s sort of where I was at in my mind. The whole idea [that] we spend all our money on chains and we come from chains, that [had] been bubbling in my head for years before I laid that lyric down. So that lyric was years in the making,” Kweli explains. De La Soul would appear on the same album, care of “Soul Rebels.”

Referring back to “Africa Dream,” Talib adds, “That song in particular; the point of that song was to take the African music experience and put it in one song. That song has scratching and cutting and the Hip-Hop MPC drums in it. But it also has African drumming in it. Has live bass, has live horns. It has Jazz in it. It has Blues in it. There’s guitar in the song. I was trying to create something that just encapsulated all of African music. And so for me to say that line in that song it made sense.”

In 2010, Hi-Tek and Kweli reunited for a follow-up, Revolutions Per Minute. That LP came on Talib’s Warner Bros.-distributed Blacksmith label. Both albums were Top 20 debuts. In 2015, Tek and Talib made “Every Ghetto” featuring Rapsody, a video single from Kweli & 9th Wonder’s Indie 500.

Hi-Tek released three solo albums, in addition to later producing for 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and The Game. Recently, he laced Anderson .Paak with video single “Come Down,” as well as Odd Future’s Hodgy with “Glory.”

Earlier this month, Kweli partnered with Rick Ross to release video single “Heads Up Eyes Open.” He also appeared on a collaboration with Blu, and recently made a song advocating the rights of a domestic abuse victim, Ohio teen Bresha Meadows. In April, he released EP The Seven with LOX co-founder Styles P.