Talib Kweli admits that he doesn't drink a lot of soda, and that he knows "very, very little" about professional football. But when the Brooklyn rapper was approached to star in a TV spot for Pepsi Max's NFL playoffs campaign, Kweli saw an opportunity to bolster awareness around his self-released fifth album, "Gutter Rainbows," which was digitally released today (Jan. 25).
"There's a segment of my fan base that wants to believe that I'm in some basement somewhere with a notebook, with a backpack on, writing rhymes to Eminem instrumentals or something," says Kweli. "So the idea that at this point [is that] I'm 35 years old and there's no music business, and I have grown man responsibilities, so of course I'm going to get paid for my craft. And I'm going to work with companies that are willing to support the lifestyle."
Video: Talib Kewli, "Cold Rain" (from "Gutter Rainbows")
For Kweli, participating in projects like the Pepsi campaign (along with fellow rappers Big Boi, Lupe Fiasco and B.o.B) has allowed him to continue releasing music on his Blacksmith Music label, which issued his 2007 solo album "Eardrum" alongside Warner Bros. Records. He plans to release a new album, "Prisoner of Consciousness," on Blacksmith later this year, while Javotti Media will handle the release of "Gutter Rainbows," which features collaborations with Sean Price, Jean Grae and Kendra Ross.
"There's a generation growing up that doesn't understand that music is paid, but just because you get it for free doesn't mean that someone's not paying for it," says Kweli. "Someone's still got to pay for it. So you've got to figure, 'Well, how is this person going to pay for it?' You've got to maybe loosen your idea of what selling out is, when you're not participating in supporting the culture."
The rapper also says that "Arm & Hammers," the new album from hip-hop collective Strong Arm Steady, will be released in February on Blacksmith, and describes the disc as a "lush, big, bad, bold hip-hop record" that features production from DJ Khalil. However, a new album by Black Star, the classic rap outfit featuring Kweli and Mos Def, is still not far along enough "for me to say any times or dates" for a possible release, says Kweli.
(Reporting by Andy Gensler)