Song: Get By
Artist: Talib Kweli
Album: Quality (2002, Rawkus Records)
Whenever I hear some bullshit hip hop song polluting the airwaves and giving the music I love a bad name, I have a small collection of artists and songs that make me feel better and remind me how powerful and incredible hip hop can be. Kweli is one of those artists and this is one of those songs.
The thing I has always loved about Talib Kweli, since he first entered my eardrums alongside Mos Def as Black Star with the song "Respiration," is that it's never been about anything besides the music and real life. There are no songs about rims or e'rbody in the club gettin' tipsy or what the temperature is in a certain location. It's about the things he sees in his life and in his neighborhood and his reactions to them.
Now, with this song specifically, there is a lot to love.
I love the Nina Simone piano sample.
I love the hand-claps at the tail end of the song when Kweli breaks it down one last time.
I love the chorus that, once I hear it, is stuck in my head for hours on end.
Most of all, I love exactly what has always Kweli done best - deliver intelligent, incredible rhymes:
We go through "Epidodes II," like "Attack of the Clones"
I paint a picture with the pen like Norman Mailer
We do or die like Bed-Stuy through the red sky
with the window of the red eye
Let the lead fly, some G. Rap shit, "Livin' to Let Die"
The TV got us reachin for stars
Not the ones between Venus and Mars, the ones that be readin for parts
Some people get breast enhancements and penis enlargers
Saturday sinners Sunday morning at the feet of the Father
They need somethin to rely on, we get high on all types of drug
When, all you really need is love
Personally, I like that the airwaves are littered with one hit wonders and flashes in the pan; it lets me keep cats like Kweli as my own, not that there haven't been chances for the masses to catch on.
Jay-Z famously name checked Kweli on "Moment of Clarity" off The Black Album, dropping the lyric "If skills sold / truth be told / I'd probably be / lyrically Talib Kweli" but still not a lot of people have caught on, probably because the song wasn't one of the singles off the album and never made heavy rotation on the radio...
For anyone out there who is a fan of hip hop - the real hip hop, not the junk you hear in heavy rotation - this song and this MC are a must. Equally as incredible as this track is the remix featuring Mos, Jay-Z and Kanye. Go pick'em both up and enjoy.