Talib Kweli Biography

Get to know Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli © Blacksmith/Warner.

Real Name: Talib Kweli Greene


October 3, 1975 in Brooklyn, New York

Interesting Facts:

  • Kweli was a part-owner of Nkiru, Brooklyn’s oldest Black bookstore.
  • He studied experimental theater at NYU.
  • Talib Kweli means “seeker/student of truth" in Arabic.

Talib Kweli’s Early Childhood:

Growing up in a home with both parents as college professors, young Talib Kweli showed a great interest in writing and was drawn to hip-hop artists who voiced a significant message. Talib drew his inspiration from various conscious emcees ranging from Rakim and Brand Nubian to KRS-One and Ice Cube, among others. During his teen years, Talib Kweli focused his writing skills in the form of hip-hop, and in high school, met fellow Brooklyn native Dante Smith who would later be known as Mos Def; the rest, as they say, is history.

Talib Kweli’s Early Rap Career:

In 1994, Kweli was introduced to DJ Hi-Tek who further encouraged his aspirations in hip-hop. In 1997, Talib contributed to the debut album DJ Hi-Tek’s short-lived underground group known as Mood, which consisted of Main Flow, Donte and Jahson. It was in 1998 however, when Talib Kweli truly set things off with his Rawkus Records debut. Alongside his pal Mos Def, Kweli spawned the highly esteemed self-titled Black Star album. Two years later, Kweli and Hi-Tek formed the duo Reflection Eternal, and released Train of Thought, yet another critically acclaimed album.

If Skills Sold...:

In 2002, Talib Kweli finally released his first solo album, Quality, yet another critically acclaimed project despite subdued commercial success: and such has been the story of Kweli’s career as of yet. Nonetheless, Talib Kweli has been regarded as a true talent by fans as well as his peers. 50 Cent has named Kweli one of his favorite rappers; Jay-Z expressed his feelings about Kweli as well, showing some love in the process: “If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be, lyrically Talib Kweli."

Expanding His Horizons:

In an effort to draw in a wider audience, Kweli released his second solo album, The Beautiful Struggle, in 2004. While still performing his characteristically conscious lyrics, The Beautiful Struggle featured commercial production. Soon afterwards, Kweli established his own record label, Blacksmith Records. Acclaimed hip-hop artist Jean Grae as well as the group Strong Arm Steady have joined Kweli’s label, with talks of MF Doom following suit and Rakim releasing his next album through Blacksmith.

Talib Kweli’s Solo Discography:

  • 2002 - Quality (Rawkus Records)
  • 2004 - The Beautiful Struggle (Geffen)
  • 2005 - Right About Now (Koch Records)
  • 2007 - Ear Drum (Black Smith Music)
  • 2011 - Gutter Rainbows (3D)

Talib Kweli's Group/Collaboration Discography:

  • 1998 - Black Star (Black Star, alongside Mos Def; Rawkus Records)
  • 2000 - Train of Thought (Reflection Eternal alongside Hi-Tek; Rawkus Records)
  • 2006 - Blacksmith: The Movement (Featuring artists from his record label; Blacksmith Music)
  • 2007 - Liberation (Liberation, alongside Madlib; Blacksmith Music)

Talib Kweli in His Own Words:

'I started rapping because I wanted people to hear what I have to say. I want as many people to hear me as possible, and I do everything in my power to make that pop." (Talib Kweli in an interview with RapReviews.com.)