NEW YORK — When you're Talib Kweli, you take the good with the bad.
The Brooklyn rapper has been celebrating the biggest first-week-sales debut of his career with Eardrum, his third proper solo album, which landed at #2 on the Billboard albums chart with sales close to 60,000 copies. To the surprise of some, he topped the ubiquitous Swizz Beatz, whose One Man Band Man album also debuted that same week.
But just when Kweli should've been poppin' bottles (of apple juice — after all, he's a man of the people), fans of the uplifting wordsmith cried foul after he tossed out a tentative name for his next album: Prisoner of Conscious.
"You love the Internet, but you hate it," he said, jokingly. "Because that's something that I mentioned to someone, and they put it in an article. ... I might call it that. But I want it to be a surprise, but I guess it's not. I'm definitely aware of what I represent in the business, and I try to play my position well."
His back-and-forth relationship with his online fans aside, things seem to be going more good than bad at the moment for him.
Kweli explained he's easing into what he feels is the third part of his critically acclaimed career.
"I look at the first part, as being a rapper on Rawkus and being excited to be around," he said, "and just wanting people to know I rhyme. And the second part was trying to take control of my career and establishing myself as a solo artist. And the third part is now being an executive and taking complete control of what comes out [through his Blacksmith Music]."
In addition to Kweli planning out his next solo project, his longtime collaborator, producer Hi-Tek, recently announced the two will soon begin working on another Reflection Eternal album.
Kwe was quick to explain the RE idea is still in motion, as he and Tek have worked together on various albums since 2000's Train of Thought. But he also added that fans shouldn't necessarily wait for an RE album — or, for that matter, one by Black Star, his side project with Mos Def — anytime soon. He's not pulling a Dr. Dre/ Detox situation, just some things are easier than others, according to Kweli.
In fact, he went so far as to spell out the differences between a Black Star album and Detox. "Well, the clear difference is Dr. Dre has sold hundreds of thousands of millions more records than we've sold. And two, [with] Detox, Dre can make it happen if he wants to. Black Star is two people. But Dre can sit down in the studio and make Detox himself. I can't do it without Mos Def, and Mos Def can't do it without me."
In the meantime, he's moving forward with Eardrum, even if he's been having a bit of fun listening to his classics lately.
"I was listening to 'Move Somethin' ' the other day, which is a song that I still perform to this day," Kweli said. "But I was listening to technically what I did on the record, I was watching the video on YouTube and I'm like, 'Damn, I'm light-years beyond that style of rhyme. I'm so much better than I was then.' But you'll still get that fan who'll say, 'Yo, there's no way he is as good as he was when he was doing Reflection. I'm like, 'Technically, that's just impossible.' It can't be 15 years later.
"I think the logic of that statement," he continued, "is that people get caught up in a time and what that song represents to them at the time they hear it. And nothing I'm gonna do after that is going to match up to that time period, because they can't get that back. So I have to realize that when I make music, that time is never gonna be back to them. But you gonna get new fans all the time. I got fans that became fans at Black Star, I got new fans at Reflection, new fans at Quality, new fans at The Beautiful Struggle, new fans at Liberation. I got fans of mine who never heard of me [before] and like 'Hot Thing' as the first thing from me. So you're always gonna get new fans, but I just got to remember I have to maintain who I am."