The Brooklyn-based rapper earned his stripes as one of the most lyrically-gifted, socially aware and politically insightful rappers to emerge in the last 20 years. His travels around the globe as one of rap’s most in-demand performers combined with his conversations with political activists and his genre-straddling work with Idle Warship and others caused Kweli to realize that he was limited in a sense, a prisoner of sorts of his own success as one of the world’s best rappers with something significant to say.
“My music has been associated with those types of causes, with positivity, spirituality, intelligence and being thought-provoking and such,” he says. “I think sometimes people get caught up in that part of me as an artist and don’t necessarily understand the musicality or fully appreciate the music and the entertainment value behind what I do. I tried to stretch my wings a little bit and bring something that was less beholden to the world of hip-hop and more existing in the world in general.”
The result of this artistic growth and exploration arrives with Kweli’s dynamic Prisoner Of Conscious AKA P.O.C., an artistic tour de force that signals the start of the next chapter of Kweli’s remarkable career. The BK MC spent more time working on Prisoner Of Conscious than any of his other albums, a three-year journey that found him exploring new vibes, joining in some unlikely collaborations and taking him to foreign lands.
Produced by Symbolyc One (Kanye West, Ghostface), the title track’s alternatively rap and rock-based beat provides a distinctive platform for Kweli to deliver rhymes that detail his artistic awakening, while producers Sean C & LV (Jay-Z, Raekwon) created a Marvin Gaye-esque vibe for “Come,” a cut featuring Miguel that showcases Kweli trying to convince a series of women to do things his way.
Then there’s the dramatic, piano-driven “Before He Walked,” which showcases passionate vocals from singer Abby Dobson and includes a verse from possibly the most noteworthy guest on Prisoner Of Conscious: Nelly. Both Kweli and The St. Louis rapper recount the importance music has had in their lives on the stirring song, which was an outgrowth of conversations about music and life Kweli and Nelly had at Kweli’s Los Angeles residence.
“Nelly is somebody I’ve known and have been friendly with throughout the years in this business,” Kweli says. “Nelly has always been an example for me because a rising tide raises all boats. Nelly is an artist who is polarizing at times because of the ‘Tip Drill’ video to the boycotts he’s endured at colleges, but I know him as a person, and he’s a great person.”
Elsewhere, the driving “Ready Set Go” with singer Melanie Fiona features Kweli’s ever-impressive clever verbal gymnastics, which are also on display on the stark Busta Rhymes-guested and RZA-produced “Rocketships.”
Kweli shifts gears on “Favela Love.” Inspired by and created during a trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the breezy song features crooning from Brazilian singer and actor Seu George (City Of God, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Kweli and George met in the studio, leading Kweli to deviate from his original concept for the song.
“The song went from being about a woman to be being about Brazil, about the favela, about loving to come there,” he reveals. “The woman is really a metaphor for the place. That’s why it’s called ‘Favela Love.’ When I was telling Seu George about that, he started singing about how much he loves Brazil and where Brazil fits in the world.”
After nearly 20 years of releasing mesmerizing music, Talib Kweli stands as one of the world’s most talented and most accomplished rappers.
Whether working with Mos Def as one-half of Black Star, partnering with producer Hi-Tek for Reflection Eternal, releasing landmark solo material or collaborating with Kanye West or Madlib, Kweli commands attention by delivering top-tier lyricism, crafting captivating stories and showing the ability to rhyme over virtually any type of beat.
In particular, Kweli showed his artistic reach in Idle Warship. Teaming with longtime collaborator and acclaimed singer Res, Kweli began getting out of his sonic and creative comfort zone on the group’s 2009 mixtape Party Robot and its debut album, 2011’s Habits Of The Heart.
Idle Warship’s music challenged Kweli and led him to a new artistic space. “I like the position I’m in,” he says. “I feel like I’m a connector, a leader. I feel like I’ve led by example and I want to continue to do that. I like the fact that I’m in a position where cats who are coming out and making music that I enjoy are interested in my music and are interested in my influence. It’s a great feeling.”
Kweli also has the high-powered Attack The Block mixtape with DJ Z-Trip set to arrive and will be focusing on making his Javotti Media (which released his 2011 album, Gutter Rainbows, and is named after his paternal grandmother) into a media powerhouse that releases music, films and books.
But for now, Prisoner Of Conscious arrives as an artistic triumph, a collection that embodies Talib Kweli’s robust creative vision. “I wanted to put out an album that really can support the artist that I’ve become,” he says. “I’m a touring artist. I’m an artist that’s internationally known. I’m not just a local artist at this point in my career. I’m cognizant of the fact that what I do is beyond where it started. I’m trying to reach the apex of where I am now, but without turning my back on or dismissing what I’ve done before.”
Hailing from the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa, Black Noise is a pioneering crew of Cape Town’s ‘conscious’ hip-hop scene from the late 80s and early 90s. Emile YX? (aka Emile Jansen) has been the crew’s mainstay for over 25 years. Black Noise is South Africa’s oldest active hip-hop crew and Jansen has been instrumental in employing Black Noise for youth development initiatives, such as workshops for township youth. He went on to establish a non-profit organisation called Heal the Hood and launched landmark hip-hop events; these include the annual Hip-Hop Indaba, African Battle Cry and Shut Up and Dance. The crew has conducted workshops and performed extensively in South Africa as well as in a number of European countries.
In 2005, Bocafloja founded Quilombo: Arte en Resistencia. Quilomboarte is an association of musicians of Latino background, who also produce cultural events in which rap and spoken word function as a non-orthodox educational tool and an essential collaborative adhesive to social and political movements in the processes of transformation throughout the Americas. Quilomboarte operates in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The organization derives its name from the communities in resistance, “Quilombos”, which during the colonial period on the American continent were established by fugitive black slaves (also known as maroons and cimarrones), indigenous peoples and others who rejected colonialism’s domination, who preferred to live as free people in communal form. Quilombos (also known as mocambos and palenques), were founded as independent and self-sustaining collectives which rejected the state of slavery and its oppressive nature. As such, Quilomboarte’s roots are based in political principles and conceptions that direct its actions. The organization works autonomously, with its own resources and abilities, making use of transgressive and transformative forces of Hip Hop culture applied to sustainable change.
Poet, Rap artist, scholar, cultural ambassador, and founder of the Quilomboarte collective. In addition to five professionally edited music albums being “Patologías del Invisible Incómodo” his most awarded musical project, and having toured internationally throughout 15 countries, Bocafloja has transgressed into one of the most revered icons in the Spanish speaking Hip Hop communities. In 2008 published his first book ImaRginación. Prognosis is his second literary project. Race relations, decolonial narrative, and the African diaspora in Latin America studies are fundamental topics addressed in his body of work. He was born in Mexico City and lives in New York City.
Hache ST is a writer and spoken word artist, member of Quilomboarte, acting as a collective organization of cultural production in the Rap and Spoken Word function as an unorthodox educational tool that adheres creates , manages and collaborates with different processes of political and social transformation.
Hache ST depicts the untold story by the hegemonic civilizing speech of Latin America, using Hip Hop as a tool of politicization through clever rhymes and deep reviews that highlight issues such as racism, memory, the patriarchal system, education and miscegenation. Musically influenced by variety of rhythms ranging from Soul, Jazz, R & B , to the Haitian Gagá all the way through classic Hip Hop. There are bass lines, acoustic guitars and percussion showing its versatility when composing, this has allowed him to work with artists from all over the world.
A well-executed amalgam of music that fuses many styles ranging from soul, dancehall, hip hop and funk from a female perspective. A project in a constant search for the perfect symbiosis between musicality , message and commitment.
Having performed all over Europe, Brazil and Mexico, Indee is established as one of the most relevant voices in the global Hip Hop scene. Inhabitant of the streets of Barcelona, with three albums under her arm, Indee Styla contributes in the process of developing richer sound textures and crucial narratives giving Hip Hop a women’s facade.
Cambio is a lyricist born and raised in California’s Central Valley but has since performed globally from Latin America and Europe.
As a part of the Quilomboarte collective Cambio delivers a meaningful message influenced by soul to all audiences interested in good hip hop.
Cambio was featured in a documentary aired on PBS about his work with youth and organizing through music.
His first album “Or Does It Explode?” was reviewed by The legendary Roots Crew website OKAYPLAYER.com saying, “such an honestly autobiographical expression of both the greatest and hardest moments of life combined with a local and global social critique deserves praise and recognition”.
Born in the town of Limbé in Northern Haiti, Vox Sambou has been writing and performing since age 14. Montreal, Canada is now his home. A founding member of the international crew Nomadic Massive, he also asserts his individualism within this collective which facilitates his desire to bring light to the injustices taking place worldwide and particularly in Haiti. Further, he does so using Haiti’s most widely spoken language, creole. Vox hopes to bring back a sense of pride to his people by shedding light on their rich and unique cultural heritage. He feels, however, that although it is important to identify the issues surrounding the problem, it is equally urgent to find concrete solutions. He exercises this credo everyday as director of a youth community center in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges.
Having completed his first solo album and released three videos, performing as a solo artist and with Nomadic Massive has kept him busy both locally and abroad. Notably, Vox Sambou took part in the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, Festival du Monde Arabe, Festival Urbain de Trois-Rivières, the Indie Unlimited Festival, The 2nd Annual Cuban Hip-Hop Symposium, Blackitude Vozes Negras da Bahia, Brazil, just to name a few. His upcoming projects include the release of the 2nd Nomadic Massive Album, his second solo album, and another trip to Brazil with Nomadic Massive to continue his mission of international collaboration.
Native Sun is a London based duo consisting of bilingual rapper Mohammed Yahya, born in Mozambique, South East Africa and singer-song writer Sarina Leah born in London with Caribbean roots.
Joining forces in 2010 Native Sun was born fusing Hip Hop and African rhythms with the aim of promoting a positive message of Universal Peace, Equality, Social Justice and Environmental Change.
Both artists over the years have received a great deal of publicity through collaborations on a variety of compilation CDs, Albums, International Tours across Europe, U.S. and Africa.
They have also featured on a wide range of publications as well as TV appearances from UK based TV Channels such as BBC and ITV to Channels across Europe.
Now together, Native Sun’s sweet melodies fuse addictive head bouncing Hip Hop undertones, conscious bilingual lyrics and catchy hooks perfect for a climate in need of an uplifting message.
The Project Soul Collective, also known as Project Korea, is an all-star cast and group made up of the top Korean b-boys and artists. The group was first put together in 2002 by the Cartel Creative B-Boy Agency, in order to showcase to the world the incredible skills and talent of Korean b-boys. Project Soul quickly became world champions and rose to superstardom throughout the worldwide b-boying community.
Part of the mission was to give unknown talented b-boys and crews a chance to get their names out to the world. As this was accomplished, many of the members were able to take their own original crews to win world championships.
Today, Project Soul still comes together when needed under the management and direction of Cartel Creative.
“THE GAME CHANGER”
DJ Cheese has a long history in this thing We call the ‘HIP HOP’ He was born in W. Virginia then raised in Potters Crossing – Edison, N.J. and Later Move To Plainfield, N.J. when he was 8Yrs Old. Cheese started to deejay then, and as a teenager he traveled Europe and the states And Other Countries as a professional DJ with major artist like Lisa Lisa and the Cult – Jam, Samantha Fox, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Eric B. & Rakim. Run of Run DMC and Jam Master Jay spoke of Cheese in his verse “Here We Go” (…”My Rhyme Comes Faster Than Dj Cheese, The DJ cut the record … from the valley below…).
DJ Cheese’s song “King Kut” still gets play on the radio throughout the world, and has received awards here and in the U.K. “King Kut” was the first Hip Hop song to get primetime play in the New York market. This was a special achievement because at that time radio didn’t play rap music before 9 pm., 7 days a week. In 1984, Cheese won the DMC World Title at the Disco Mix Championship DJ Battle for World Supremacy in Europe’s Hipo Dome 1986. Cheese is a member of the DMC Technics Hall of Fame. The DMC battle is held annually, with regional competitions held throughout the world leading up to the main event in Europe. Prior to Cheese, the winners had all been mix deejays (deejays who mix music together). Cheese lit up the show by Introducing cutting, scratching And Turntables Tricks, Hand Cuffed, Blind folded, Spinning Around 360 And Cutting & Scratching With A Sneaker On His Hand, techniques the world had never seen before.
DJ Spictakular is an original member of the Allies Crew, comprised of A-Trak, J-Smoke, Craze, Clever, Infamous and Develop. Spictakular made a name for himself as a DJ with a charismatic stage presence, well-composed routines and precise technical control.
His routines emphasize multiple aspects of DJ performance including beat juggling, scratching, body tricks and mixing. He has won numerous individual battle titles over the course of his career, including being the Philadelphia Regional DMC Champion as well as the runner-up in the US DMC Finals (both in 1999). Additionally, when he was a part of the Allies, they were the 1999 ITF World Team Champions. The Allies have won over 14 world championships together, more than any other DJ crew in the world. Spictakular has also appeared with the Allies on Fox, NBC, CNN, MTV, VH1 and BET.
Today, Spictakular stays busy teaching the art of DJing at Dubspot. He’s also a busy producer, with credits including tracks with Lil Wayne, D-Block and Immortal Technique.
2012 DMC World Supremacy Champ, 2012 + 2013 IDA World Champ, 4x Canadian Champ
Jake “Vekked” Meyer’s journey as a DJ began in 2004 in Paisley, Ontario, a village of 1000 people where hip-hop and DJing is virtually non-existent. At the young age of 12 he got into music production, and was later introduced to hip-hop in high school. It was then that he combined his interest in hip-hop with his love of making music and decided to become a DJ. After seeing videos online of DJ Q-bert and Mix Master Mike that solidified his decision to become a turntablist and learn how to scratch.
Not long after getting his first set of Gemini turntables, Vekked purchased a copy of the 2003 DMC World Supremacy DVD and got his first exposure to DJ battling. A few months later he attended his first DMC event, and the following year he decided to enter himself. His first battle experience did not go as smooth as he could have hoped, and he ended up not placing. This experience only motivated him to work harder and once again he entered DMC in 2007. After his set, the 2003 Canadian DMC Supremacy champ M-Rock told him that he had potential but needed to try to find his own style, and said
“DO NOT BATTLE FOR THE SAKE OF BATTLING, BATTLE WHEN YOU FEEL YOU HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO BRING TO THE ARTFORM.”
With these words Vekked went back to the lab to practice and focus on the things that separated him from rest of the pack. In 2011, he came back with a much more developed style and claimed his first major DJ title becoming the Canadian DMC champ. This automatically entered him into the DMC World finals, but after much deliberation he decided against going because he felt his routine wasn’t as polished as he wanted for a world final. So in the name of artistic integrity he chose to hone his skills for another year.
Vekked began practicing for 2012 right away and successfully retained his title as the Canadian DMC champion the following year. This time he felt prepared to go to the DMC World finals where he became the first Canadian ever to win the DMC World Supremacy Title in front of a judging panel that consisted of DJ legends such as Q-bert and Craze. With this momentum Vekked continued working on new material in preparation for the first ever International DJ Association (IDA) Canadian final which he went on to win as well. Soon after he travelled to Poland for the IDA World Finals and returned to North America a two-time world champion, the first North American to win an IDA world title, and the only DJ to win both the DMC and IDA world titles in the same year.
Now Vekked is working on improving the Canadian turntablist scene with a recently start website for Canadian DJs: www.tablist.ca. He is also performing showcases all across North America, and plans to continue building on his success by defending his world titles and winning more.
@VEKKED on Twitter