Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #63 Talib Kweli
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#63 Talib Kweli
I would argue that if Talib Kweli and Mos Def reunited for the second Blackstar album, some world issue, such as global warming or poverty, would be solved. It would be that powerful. It would blow minds. Blackstar is the quintessential conscious hip-hop group and, unfortunately, they disbanded after their 1998 debut. But, Mos Def and Talib Kweli have taken their influential sound to new levels with their solo careers. Talib Kweli's solo work has been so influential that it has earned him a spot on our list of the top 100 artists of the decade.
Following Blackstar, Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek banded together to form Reflection Eternal. 2000's Train of Thought was a social statement, not one that ranted about fighting the power, but, rather, one that intelligently attacked the demeaning social ineptitudes found in most rap and hip-hop lyrics. Similar to one of his influences, Nina Simone, Kweli made it his duty to challenge ignorance and intolerance - in Kweli's case, the ignorance and intolerance that plagued the popular forms of rap and hip-hop at the time.
Following Train of Thought, Kweli parted ways from Hi-Tek and created a solo album that fully cast the spotlight on himself. Quality, was undeniably powerful, led by the single "Get By," which sampled Nina Simone's "Sinnerman," one of the greatest songs ever written. Credit must be given to producer Kanye West for the backing track, but Kweli's lyrics are stunning and no longer on the attack. This time, he takes the role of preacher, praising those within his African-American culture that struggle through the many forms of oppression. This same role was carried on to his sophomore solo effort, The Beautiful Struggle, essentially, a sequel to Quality.
Talib Kweli came out swinging with Mos Def on Blackstar, but when 2000 hit, he truly came into his own. Kweli can simultaneously deliver an incredibly deep, socially significant message, while keeping the dancefloor alive. Both lyrically and musically, Kweli has become an important figure in, not just hip-hop, but music as a whole.
Check back tomorrow for the next artist! To see the full list of the Top 100 Artists of the Decade, click here.