Talib Kweli – The Manifesto

This song is way old, but I just discovered it recently. It’s tucked on Disc Two of a Lyricist Lounge album from 1999. This is a most excellent album described as a must for any hip-hop purist. (The link is to show you what it looks like. DO NOT BUY IT ON AMAZON. GET YOUR ASS TO A LOCAL MUSIC STORE BEFORE THEY ARE ALL GONE!)

It took me a long time to get into Talib. I knew he was good, I kept hearing his name from many trusted sources including Vibe and my cousin Bryant. Maybe I heard the wrong songs or maybe it just wasn’t where I was at, but I just couldn’t feel T. But he shows up on some wicked collabs and he’s usually the best.  And you can tell how much he is respected by the ny boys which are a hard crew to impress.

So song by song, he won me over. But when I really heard this song for the first time, my mind was blown. He is so right on and it is 10 years ago. And the last line about writing conscious lyrics for our children, that’s what should be the driving force of hip hop, although we all know that it’s not. You really should go read all the lyrics for the song, but I’m just going to highlight the last verse:

From open mics to solutions I got a collage of answers
and a ten point program, just like the Black Panthers

One: First respect yourself as an artist
If you don’t respect yourself then your rhymes is garbage

Two: Make sure your crew is as tight as you
cause when them niggaz fallin off they gonna bring you down too

Three: Understand the meaning of MC
The power to Move the Crowd like Moses split the seas

Four: Know your shit and don’t ever be blunted
If you don’t know what your words mean then your rhymes mean nothin

Five: Kick facts in the raps, and curse with clarity
What’s a curse when language is immersed in vulgarity

Six: We gonna fix industrial poli-tricks
Shit they made an artform out of ridin dicks

Seven: We soldiers for God needin new recruits
So if you rhymin for the loot then youse a prostitute

but Eight: Acknowledge that you need food on your plate
In order to say your grace make sure your business is straight

Nine: We buildin black minds with intelligence
and when you freestyle, keep the subject matter relevant

Ten: Every MC grab a pen
and write some conscious lyrics to tell the children

I’ll say it again, every MC find you a pen
And drop some conscious shit for our children
The Manifesto!

I know right, kid’s fucking amazing. Every single one of those lines is worth some reflection and meditation. This song is what it means to be an artist. It’s got a lot to do with me taking this jump, that’s fo sho.

What’s your favorite line and why?


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