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Verse Of The Week: Talib Kweli

Submitted by on December 2, 2009 – 6:42 pmNo Comment
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Talib Kweli

It’s been three weeks and I’m already a little behind I haven’t done a verse from the city of hip hop’s birth. No offense to any New Yorkers out there, I just had to get two verses which had been stuck in my head out of the way first. For this week’s verse, we’re finally headed to where we should have started – BROOKLYN!

Talib Kweli is considered by many a “conscious” or sociopolitical rapper due to his very pointed and insightful subject matter.

Although I consider myself a hip hop purist and love to hear worthwhile messages and sociopolitical commentary in music, I don’t want to be regarded as one-dimensional.

Neither does he.

Why should he? The man is simply a true emcee, no matter what he’s rapping about.

With this week’s article, I seek to prove that point and provide a break from my usual socially-conscious analysis.

More on that later.

First, a little background on Talib Kweli.

According to Wikipedia, his first name, Talib, means “student” in Arabic. His middle name, Kweli, means “true” in Swahili (his last name is Greene). Change the order and what do you get? “True student.” No wonder this guy’s rhymes are so clever and the information and thoughts expressed in them so potent. He’s more like a “true scholar” or “true teacher.”

Of course, many people are aware of the nod of approval paid to Kweli by none other than Jay-Z on “Moment of Clarity”:

“If skills sold,
truth be told
lyrically, I’d probably be
Talib Kweli.”

Many people consider Jay-Z the Greatest of All Time. Hov made it clear who he respects in hip hop with that line, to which the sharp-tongued half of Black Star responded on “Ghetto Show”:

“If skills sold,
then truth be told
I’d probably be
just as rich and famous as Jay-Z.”

As his name suggests, he is the truth. As such, he needs no further introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly present one of my all-time favorite Talib Kweli records: From 2004′s The Beautiful Struggle, here is the first verse of “Never Been In Love.”

“I know there’s a first time for everything
First time I let her in my bed she got wetter than
the perfect storm that we weatherin’ together and
This the first time that I’ve ever considered wedding rings
But first things first yo
I met her at the bar rolling with three wise men like I followed the star
(There she is) shorty bi coastal
Thick like bifocals,
stacked like 2Pac vocals her body so loco
Jewel of the Nile so I’m romancing the stone
The rhythm is in the words and watch her dance to my poems
The way she move them hips let me know in advance that she grown
I pictured it like Paris Hilton when she answered the phone, yo
Dancin’ alone because she extra fly
But I got good look so I catch her eye
Gave the, rest a try now give the best a try
Leave your, nest to fly I’ll make you testify”

Before I get into the lyrics here, I have to talk about the production. This track was crafted by the one and only Just Blaze and very prominently features a sample of the old-school classic, “Because I Love You” by The Imaginations (Just even lifted the opening monologue from that song).

It’s a feel good track and everything from the beat, the sample, the hand claps, and the chants which appear at the end of the song work to create an enjoyable mood. This one’s sure to turn any gathering into a party.

Now to the lyrics.

Instead of trying to convince the listener of how he would never settle down, get “sprung,” or fall in love, the preacher of the “Hostile Gospel” begins his verse by admitting that there is a first time for everything. He immediately follows this up with an attempt to prove those who wish to categorize him wrong – by mentioning his first sexual encounter with his new-found lady love.

However, he even does this in a way that shows solidarity:
“first time I let her in my bed she got wetter than
the perfect storm that we weatherin’ together and
this the first time that I ever considered wedding rings”
It’s clear from the outset that this isn’t a hit and run. Our lyricist and his lover are enduring life’s storms together… and considering marriage.

With dignity, he interrupts himself and declines to include any further details as he goes back to the beginning of the story via biblical reference:
“first things first, yo,
met her at a bar
rollin’ with three wise men
like I followed a star.”
This reference to the birth of Christ suggests that the woman he speaks of bears significant importance to his life.

Next, Kweli recalls his physical attraction (which is usually what happens first) to his romantic interest – and does so without objectifying her or any other woman! No overly sexual or immature references to specific body parts or desires. He leaves plenty to the imagination by simply remarking that she is “thick like bifocals” and “stacked like Tupac vocals.”

He moves from this very tame physical description and refers to her as the “Jewel of the Nile” and says that he is “romancing the stone.” These are references to a Michael Douglas movie, Romancing the Stone, and its sequel, Jewel of the Nile which debuted in 1984 and 1985, respectively. Both of these are adventure/action films centered around romance, making the references cohesive with the overarching theme as well as the earlier reference to weathering life’s storms.

He first saw her as she danced and her moves gave him an idea of what type of woman she was – confident, mature, seasoned, and self aware. He then makes a passing reference to Paris Hilton. (Perhaps making fun of one of many phone hacks she has been the victim of?) She dances alone and he watches until she sees him. He then proceeds to spit a few lines to her as he ends the verse:
“Gave the rest a try,
now give the best a try.
Leave your nest to fly,
I’ll make you testify.”

The moral of the story is as follows: respectable and well-mannered geniuses have game too. I wholeheartedly support and second that idea hint, hint.

Earlier this year, Talib Kweli got married to one of the baddest ladies in the game on the ones and twos, DJ Eque.

D.J. EqueDJ Eque

Congratulations to this match made in hip hop heaven!

I know they must have done the Electric Slide to this very song.

One more thing. Just in case some of you haven’t seen it (it didn’t get that much airplay or rotation), here is the official music video for “Never Been In Love.” It features a whole host of cameos and Just Blaze co-stars in it!

Talib Kweli • Never Been In Love

TWOTHREEFIVEFILMS | MySpace Video

Main Image: Last.fm

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