It’s a chilly Thursday night in Philadelphia. I dropped some prior arrangements to a last minute invitation to interview Talib Kweli, who’s doing some red-eye, twilight recording work. I get there early, park my car in front of the studio, and listen to Ear Drum for the um-teenth time in the last six months as I wait.
The album has played four times, as I fold my second newspaper. I’m down to my last handful of quarters for the City of Brotherly Love’s fifteen-minute rate meters, and I’m exhausted. Hip Hop journalism at its most typical. I leave a message with Talib‘s assistant, and head the 20 blocks home, nearly three and a half hours after I put my temporary rental in park. As I drive, I remember trying to chase Talib down in 2002, when he was touring the States with Rawkus, in the most epic game of phone-tag I’d ever played, over 300 interviews deep. When I finally caught up with him, it was the gratifying kind of interview I miss.
I get home, lose the jacket and start to cue some tapes for transcription. The ‘Berry blows up, and Kweli‘s 10 minutes away, in the midst of a stressful day of his own, and apologetic. “Do you still want to head over?” For Talib Kweli, nearly a dozen of phone interviews, but never a pound later, the question requires no thought.
Fifteen minutes later I’m in The Roots‘ studio room, sans The Roots, where Talib and songstress Res are catching up, discussing the wave of viral web talk garnered from “Industry Diary,” which leaked last week [click to listen]. A few jokes and stories later, Res is monstrously crooning vocals that sound like Power Pop on acid; light subject matter with an eerie nuance. The Idle Warship is launching, and we ain’t heard shit yet.
Talib‘s listening to her various edits of the vocals, but not actively. With a borrowed pen and tablet, he’s scribbling rhymes, mumbling uniquely-Kweli cadences to himself. Less than five minutes later, he looks up, glances at me, we finally meet, and he says he’s ready to talk. “You need to finish what you’re working on?” I ask. “I just did,” he says.
Sporting designer aviator glasses, Talib Kweli eats a chicken cheese-steak as we discuss politics, Blacksmith and this breaking side-project, Idle Warship, for HipHopDX. The whole affair takes 20 minutes, tops. The questions are answered, jokes are exchanged, and one emcee that’s forever worth his weight – (and any wait) goes back to work.
HipHopDX: Last week, you wrote an open letter in support of presidential candidate Barack Obama. You weren