Talking Louis C.K., South Park, and Popcorn With Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli is gearing up to release his fifth solo album, Prisoner of Consciousness, on May 7. The project features collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Curren$y, and Miguel (who appears on the latest smoothed-out single "Come Here"). In anticipation of the album's release, we dipped into Kweli's timeline and ended up talking Louis C.K.'s comedy, Saul Williams' poetry, and high school days when he was a fanatic of the b-word.
What's the concept behind the album's cover art?
The cover art was by Jeff Staple and it's basically the back of a canvas that somebody would paint over. If you get the actual artwork -- I'm not sure how it's gonna work on iTunes--but it's different artists that Jeff works with giving their own interpretation of what Prisoner of Consciousness means to them. It's a whole bunch of different pieces.
Did any of the artists' interpretations surprise you?
Did they surprise me? I was pleasantly surprised by how much work was put into them, I'll say that. There's some really intricate pieces in there.
This is a song w/o music/There is no percussive gunshot/No chorus of hopeless screams/No trumpet call for soldiers/A silent melody of dreams— Saul Williams (@SaulWilliams) April 15, 2013
You retweeted some lines from Saul Williams. What caught your eye about what he wrote?
Saul is one of my favorite writers. He's able to capture things that might seem sort of high art or might seem sort of too intricate for the average person to understand or bourgeoise even, but he puts them on a working class and really folksy level. What I first caught from him was a line where he says, "You haven't heard hip-hop until you've listened to Rakim on a rocky mountain top." Now that's excellent and beautiful imagery but bullshit, of course you've heard hip-hop if you've heard Rakim and you weren't on a rocky mountain top, you know what I'm saying? But I get what he's trying to say; he's trying to say that this art is so beautiful that it doesn't just exist in an urban setting. So the thing that he tweeted was interesting because he was talking about music but from his perspective as a spoken word artist, so unless he's doing a Ziggy Stardust thing it's not like there's a lot of actual music behind what he's actually doing. I thought it was a really interesting quote for a spoken-word poet.
Did you perform much with him at open mics in the '90s?
All the time. I worked at a bookstore and Saul was in the book store all the time and we used to host open mics at the bookstore, like twice a week some times. He'd buy books all the time too, him and his daughter. He was a fixture at our store.
This was Nkiru Books, right?
What happened to it?
It was a book store, ha ha, you know what I'm saying? It's what happened to every book store in the world.