Talib Kweli talks industry, upcoming album, performing with orchestra

Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli joined singer-songwriter Res as the hip-hop duo Idle Warship in 2009. The act’s combination of hip-hop with electronic and alternative music makes for a different sound in today’s vanilla music industry. On Friday at Knight Concert Hall, the duo will perform tracks from Idle Warship’s debut album, “Habits of the Heart,” with a twist; the performance will be the first time that Kweli works with an orchestra.

The Miami Hurricane got the chance to speak with Kweli about the performance, his upcoming album, and working with an orchestra.

TMH: What sets your upcoming album “Prisoner of Conscious” and recently released mix tape “Attack the Block” aside from your previous work?

TK: I don’t know, it’s new and it’s a combination of where I am. “Attack the Block” was sort of a dream of mine – to do something with a DJ like Z-Trip on a mix tape where you actually hear cutting and scratching and mixing. Being that we were working on it, I wanted to make sure I got it out before the album dropped, definitely. So yeah, I’m just in the mind state of wanting to create industry around me rather than simply exist in the industry.

TMH: Who do you have on production for “Prisoner of Conscious” and what were the toughest challenges you faced along the way?

TK: The challenges? I don’t know if there were, necessarily, any tough challenges. Maybe whittling the album down, figuring out which songs we wanted to keep.

TMH: An 11-piece chamber orchestra will accompany Idle Warship on stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts. Which songs are you particularly interested in performing with the live instruments?

TK: You know … the Idle Warship album, this is an album that Res and I worked very hard on and I don’t feel like enough people heard it. And I feel like the album has a lot more live experimentation and stuff like that than some of my other work that people might’ve heard. So I’m excited about hearing these songs flushed out. A lot of the songs have orchestral elements in them, but we haven’t performed them like that. But I’m also looking forward to doing a couple of solo joints like stuff off of the mix tape that I haven’t performed yet. I’m excited about that.

TMH: Almost a year has passed since you mentioned plans to release a new Black Star project. Are there any updates?

TK: No, there are no updates on it. I try as hard as I can to get Black Star music out to the people and when I have something to put out, I put it out. That scene moves sort of differently than me and I put out the two singles but, beyond that, I haven’t been able to get anything else out.

TMH: You recently listed your top 100 hip-hop tracks for Rolling Stone. What are your top songs outside of the genre these days?

TK: I don’t know. I don’t pay attention to much music that comes out outside of hip-hop. Like if it blows up, I’ll know about it later on. I’m late to stuff. If there’s a band like the Black Keys, I’m getting in to the Black Keys now. Even though I worked with them on their Damon Dash project but I’m like wow, this is really great. Or like Jeff Buckley – it’s really good stuff, but it’s not necessarily new. It’s new to me.