Talking Louis C.K., South Park, and Popcorn With Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli

Editor's note: In "Tweets Is Watching," Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

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.

See also:
- Jean Grae Picks Christmas Sweaters For Talib Kweli, Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch
- Sadat X's New Workout Plan (Or How To Work Off 9th Wonder's Mom's Famous Pie)

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The Top 5.33 Hip-Hop Songs Of The Week

The "b word" has been a staple of hip-hop for decades, although there's some linguistic shading as far as its use: women that aren't particularly awesome are called "bitches"; really awesome women are "bad bitches"; respected dignitaries like moms are "ladies" and "females"—unless they're the mother of a foe, in which case they're back to being a a "bitch." (Got it?)

In the last few months, though, a few MCs have begun to question if using such a term is the best way to go about things. Lupe Fiasco's "Bad Bitch" shook up the hip-hop world with its analysis of negative portrayals of women in the black community; this prompted Kanye West to contemplate his own use of the word on Twitter over the weekend.

This fraught relationship is evident in the six songs listed below: We have collaborations between men and women, the grimiest song about stripper sex, and a track from a few MCs that have catalogues full of music praising women in their lives. There is also a Shyne song.

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Watch: George Martinez, Occupy Wall Street's Congressional Candidate, Raps

Mark Hewko
George Martinez: Congressional candidate, Occupier, Rapper.
As the Voice describes in this week's cover story, George Martinez is running for congress in New York's 7th District, and he's doing so as an Occupy Wall Street-affiliated candidate.

But before he was running for office, and before he first set foot in Zuccotti Park, Martinez was a rapper.

As a high-schooler obsessively recording tracks in his bedroom, as a college kid whose crew was mentioned as an "Unsigned Hype" by The Source, as the founder of two hip-hop-related non-profits and as a "Hip-Hop Ambassador" engaged in cultural diplomacy with the State Department, Martinez has been in some version of the rap game from way back.

After the jump, check out his latest video:

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SOTC's March Madness: Rakim (6) Tangles With Black Star (11) In Our Quintessential New York Musician Tournament

‚ÄčThe Round of 64 for Sound of the City's own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—continues, and you get to vote on who makes it to Round Two. We'll have some first-round results later today, but for now, it's a battle of rhymes, as the eminent rapper Rakim takes on the duo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who are teamed up in the tournament under the Black Star moniker. Check out our arguments in favor of each, and vote at Facebook.

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Rap Made Me Do It: Ten Books I Read Because Of Hip-Hop

When rappers reference items they consume--whether Cristal, Clarks Wallabees, or chronic--listeners seek them out, either out of curiosity or a desire to be like their heroes. And thanks to hip-hop's tendency to occasionally serve as an educated, sound-advice-giving older sibling, those references can sometimes motivate listeners to pick up a book. I always loved reading, but sometimes I needed a bit of advice as far as what to check out next, and the literary references dropped by MCs often served as my introduction to new wings of the library. Here, in no particular order, are ten books that rappers have turned me on to over the years.

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Ten Hip-Hop Covers Of Rap Songs

Last week, the Detroit-based rapper and one-time J Dilla collaborator Elzhi released Elmatic. It's the second time a rapper has re-written and re-made Nas's hallowed Illmatic, with Fashawn attempting a similar feat last year. As a listening experience, Elmatic is less than convincing, leaving you continually pining for Nas's original lyrics (which isn't surprising, as they've been recited like holy hip-hop scriptures by rap fans since 1994). But beyond its artistic merits, Elmatic is more notable for being an addition to the tiny body of hip-hop songs covered by other rap artists.

Cover versions may abound in other genres, but hip-hop has a history of shying away from them. This may be due to the high importance of lyrical originality--as Masta Ace put it on the Juice Crew's "The Symphony," "There's a sign at the door: 'No Biting Allowed.' " Even homaging other artists through invoking short snippets of their lyrics is seen as grounds for a dis (Nas to Jay-Z: "How much of Biggie's rhymes is gonna come out your fat lips?"). So while there's an accepted tradition of freestyling over someone else's beat on a mixtape, and the sub-strain of what are technically answer records like Salt-N-Pepa (as Super Nature) responding to Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick's "The Show" with "The Show Stoppa," whole-hearted rap covers remain the genre's curio. Here then is a tribute to the brave souls who have dared reinvent the raps of others--with varying results.

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