John Forté Brought Talib Kweli To Rawkus. Now Kweli Assists Him In A Beautiful Collab
When John Forté had his 14-year prison sentence commuted more than a decade ago, he immediately went to the studio with longtime friend and fellow Brooklyn, New York native Talib Kweli. It was there that the former Fugees affiliate recorded “Homecoming,” a personal cover to Kanye West’s one-year-old Graduation cut. The two MCs have a relationship that dates back to the mid-1990s. As revealed on a new episode of The People’s Party (embedded below), it was Forté that suggested Rawkus Records sign Kweli. The MC/producer was working at the fledgling label as an A&R in the mid-’90s.
The People’s Party conversation also covered John Forte’s recently released project, Riddem Drive, released this month on Kweli’s label Javotti Media. On Riddem Drive, the two longtime friends once again share a track, “Being Is Believing,” and it’s a standout record for both veteran MCs.
“Being Is Believing,” like all of Riddem Drive, is produced by the multi-talented John Forté, whose abilities beyond rapping and production include guitar, piano, and violin. Kweli starts the song off with impact: “Music in the soul can be heard in the universe / The whispers of the trees, the breeze through the junipers / Who’s the first to move you through a verse like how you deserve? / Now you super thirst Like a groupie alert, its due to the work / Man, the things we do in the pursuit of the purse.”
Later, Kweli strikes a chord: “Self-reflection is a meditation / Revelations ain’t a hotel, but I got reservations / They gave the natives reservations, they gave us Jim Crow, and intimidation / They gave slave-masters reparations.” Talib juxtaposes the Jim Crow reality that African Americans faced and the whitewashed ending of the civil war where slavemasters were indeed compensated up to $300 for each enslaved person freed. He ends the potent verse with: “They poisoning us like the tip of a broken spear/ Trying not to be the tree in the forest that no one hears.”
John sings the hook: “I see it in everything / I feel it in every vein / Being is believing / The feeling is mutual / Let it be when it might be beautiful.”
Forté then begins his verse with the beautifully written, “Somewhere deep in the wilderness / The heir to what the building is, what comes forth reveals how real this is / It’s like ever since my higher purpose was born / She makes running through the motions, feel like a pilgrimage.” It’s beautiful figurative language about parenthood. John continues with the theme and a few bars later raps, “And should our seeds be reflective of our deeds / May the lessons that they learn be the ones that they need.”
John pushes ahead with the stellar verse with a compound rhyme structure: “Be a student to the art of the moment / A message in the trees / So I’ve been in the garden growing / Literally knee-deep in the weed.” The double entendre is also a nod to John Forté s work in the legal cannabis space.
He finishes the song with the line, “Let’s make something beautiful and go from there.” It’s a fitting end to a beautiful collaboration between two of New York’s finest artists. The song also features Ben Taylor, son of musicians Carly Simon and James Taylor. Simon was one of Forte’s biggest advocates in urging those in power to release the musician during his prison sentence.
#BonusBeat: John Forté’s appearance on The People’s Party With Talib Kweli: