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Improve Your Taste With... Talib Kweli
The esteemed MC on Gorillaz, City of God, and Christopher Nolan.
BY JAMES BRADY RYAN
Besides maintaining a successful solo career and logging more guest appearances than we have space to list here, Talib Kweli is half of the legendary rap duo Black Star (with fellow rapper Mos Def) and Reflection Eternal (with DJ Hi-Tek), whose sophomore album, Revolutions Per Minute, met with ecstatic reviews last month. Kweli is currently working on his next solo project, but he took a few moments of his time to talk to us about Gorillaz, Christopher Nolan, and his favorite cartoon.
Jean Grae - Cake or Death
She's been working on her album, and because she's on my label, I've been listening to a lot of her. Jean Grae is one of the purest MCs I've ever heard. As an MC first, she's aggressive in nature, but as she's grown, it's become less about proving herself as an MC, and more about just making great records. The album is focused, sexual — sort of a relationship album, and I think a relationship album from a female MC is interesting.
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
I didn't own their first album, but I liked the artists that they choose to work with: Mos Def, Bobby Womack, people like that. When artists are allowed to just get together and make music, that's when the greatest music comes — when you think about Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo, these are both very accomplished, very talented artists who've put out incredible work, but when you put them together as Gnarls Barkley... And I guess the Gorillaz became bigger than the sum of their parts, because there wasn't any pressure to do anything but make music. I like when artists create their own genre, and they've created their own genre. They're influenced by a bunch of different things, but the sound is uniquely Gorillaz.
City of God
I think the story of the transformation of a neighborhood from poor people's perspective is important. The child actors, all people from those neighborhoods, did such an incredible job. It's incredibly tragic in one way but beautiful in another. Violently, violently beautiful. And it depends on the art and the story — Menace II Society is one of my favorite films, and the story is such a good story that it trumps everything. My mother doesn't like violent movies, but I felt like story of being a young black man was so important for her to see, I made her watch it. And the first few scenes, she flinched. She was like, "Ooh, I don't know..." But once she made it through, she realized it was a great movie.
It's about a man who loses his wife, just by being nonchalant in the relationship. He literally loses her; she just disappears one day. And he spends the next couple years trying to find her. It's about his journey to find his long-lost wife, and what he goes through to help him realize why she had to leave. It made me look at my life differently — it made me want to make changes in my relationships. And it made me appreciate travel more, because he travels a lot in this book. When I was reading it I was on tour, traveling literally to the places he was going.
Life & Times of Tim
When I first saw it, I thought it was cute. But as I watched it more, I saw that these crudely drawn characters had so many layers. I just think the humor is really, really on point. Especially about living in New York City; if you live in a big city, and you've found that living in a big city often puts you in situations you don't want to be in, it will appeal to you. You have to get past the drawings, because the drawings are admittedly crude. But at this point for me, that adds to the charm.
When I'm looking for a movie, I really go more based on the director, and I like Chris Nolan a lot. His films are consistently dark, but he really knows how to tell a story. And he picks extremely interesting characters and subject matter. I really like The Dark Knight, but it's almost like I can't give that to him because it's already Batman. But the characters from Memento, The Prestige, these are just characters I'd never seen before. I'd have to say The Prestige is my favorite. I just think the premise of magician beef is really interesting. And I imagine if you had beef with another magician, that would be real ill.