Whatever you choose to call
's work – alternative, socially-conscious or simply “good music” – there's no mistaking the veteran emcee's mission: to find beauty and artistic inspiration where others might see only ugliness. Fresh off
, his 2010 reunion with
, the Brooklyn mainstay has set out in search of
once again in preparation for his latest solo release. The follow-up to '07's Booth-acclaimed
LP and the prelude to forthcoming full-length
Prisoner of Consciousness
(due out later this year), Kweli's sixth studio album is scheduled for release in North America (digital-only) and abroad (all formats) January 25, via the artist's own
Booth-exclusive, five-question interview
, Talib Kweli discusses the freedom of working independently on his latest album, the transition from working exclusively with Hi Tek to on
to enlisting a different beatsmith for each track, and the many exciting projects scheduled for impending release on his
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A rainbow is created when the sun shines on droplets of moisture in the atmosphere. How are Gutter Rainbows created?
are created because light waves that travel at different distances before being reflected create a spectrum of color when mixed together. Oil in the street is spread at different levels of thickness, so when the sun hits it and reflect off it, we see different colors. It's a beautiful metaphor for the hood.
The press release for this album indicated that a project like Gutter Rainbows could never be released on a major label because of its uniqueness. Would it be appropriate to then surmise that you have frustratingly held back musical creativity over the years?
No, I've never been frustrated creatively. But this release gives me a chance to see how the fans respond to something that comes directly from me as opposed to through some faceless corporation.
Describe the transition from working exclusively with Hi-Tek on the last Reflection Eternal album to working with 13 different producers on Gutter Rainbows?
Wow, it sounds crazy when you say I went from working with one to 13. But Hi Tek is the highest caliber of producer, so working with him extensively has given me an ear for great producers. The producers on this album are all passionate about and dedicated to boom bap hip hop music, but they all make music that works well with live instrumentation.
In a promo photo being used for Gutter Rainbows, you are standing in a barren forest next to an old, burnt down car. Was this photo meant to symbolize the act of getting too comfortable in an industry that will leave you alone and amongst the old, run down machines? (Or are we reading too much into a simple promo photo?)
Yeah, that was just basically me and a photographer somewhere crazy out in Ft. Collins Colorado. But I like your interpretation. I'll take that.
What will 2011 mean for the future of Talib Kweli's career in the music industry? Are there any "new beginnings" on the horizon?
I feel fresh, experienced and wise, but fresh. I am excited about
, Strong Arm Steady's
Arms and Hammers
album will come out Feb 22. Featuring myself, KRS, Too Short, Marsha Ambrosius, Kurupt. Tracks by DJ Khalil, Jelly Roll, Madlib, Nottz etc. Jean Grae's
Cake or Death
is coming soon. We got the website,
, cracking. I'm ready.
Final thoughts? Confessions? Shout outs?
Shout out to the community at
, and to DJBooth.net for always holding me down!