A collection of Talib Kweli’s favourite books
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A collection of Talib Kweli's favourite books

Talib Kweli’s legacy is as one of hip-hop’s most overlooked lyricists. The Brooklyn emcee has produced fantastic music over the years and has been one of the few artists to resist changing his lyrics and messaging for commercial success.

Akin to artists such as Common and Black Thought, Talib Kweli has used his lyrics as a vehicle for social change and is unapologetically black in his approach to music. With strong Afro-centric messages and anti-establishment rhetoric, the New York native is undoubtedly one of the most lyrically gifted rappers.

Kweli first broke onto the scene as part of the Reflection Eternal duo but quickly joined forces with Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def). Together, they formed Black Star, a powerful duo named after the shipping company founded by pan-African intellectual Marcus Garvey.

Kweli’s lyrics and knowledge show that he is well-read and well-versed in the history of his people. From lyrics about Marcus Garvey and Camille Yarbrough, the emcee (real name Talib Greene) is far from ill-informed.

In 2021, Greene released his memoir Vibrate Higher, which detailed his exposure to activism as a child and highlighted the emphasis placed on education in his household. However, it also unveiled that his first job exacerbated his thirst for knowledge.

As a young man, Greene worked in Nkiru Books, one of Brooklyn’s first Black bookstores, in the mid-1990s. The shop was such a cornerstone of the African-American community in New York that when Black Star began to gain traction, Greene and Mos Def purchased the store and transformed it into a charity that promoted literacy and social consciousness for people of colour.

In 2019, during an interview with Nkiru at the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival, Greene revealed five books that he believes are life-changing must-reads. You can see his picks below.

A collection of Talib Kweli’s favourite books:

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X and Alex Haley, (1965)
  • Assata: An Autobiography – Assata Shakur, (1987)
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho, (1988)
  • The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander, (2010)
  • The Beautiful Struggle – Ta-Nehisi Coates, (2021)