Eugene Gologursky, WireImage
"Prisoner of Consciousness' is a record I've been working on for the better part of four years," Kweli tells The BoomBox. "I wasn't happy with my last album with Warner Brothers [2007's 'Eardrum,'] and I knew I didn't want to give them 'Prisoner of Consciousness.' I knew the project was too important for me, so I opted to get out of my deal."
The omnipresent Kweli released the follow-up, 'Gutter Rainbows,' earlier this year. The effort was his first solo album off his own imprint, Blacksmith Music. "I'm a touring artist," he admits. "Prisoner of Consciousness' wasn't ready but I still had a bunch of great songs that were timely; a lot of the songs on 'Gutter Rainbows' were songs that work for that time, but if I held on to them, were going to have to be updated. So, I was like let me put together a project and put it out myself and that was what 'Gutter Rainbows was."
However, the 36-year-old rhymer didn't just craft his last project from leftovers from his forthcoming LP. It was all a part of a bigger picture. "'Gutter Rainbows' was not necessarily the outtakes from 'Prisoner of Consciousness,' but 'Gutter Rainbows' was started with the spirit of 'Prisoner of Consciousness' and became its own thing, almost like a prelude to 'Prisoner of Consciousness,'" he explains.
A cathartic, yet solid hip-hop album when it comes to Kweli's mic skills, 'Gutter Rainbows' surfaced with little attention, and 11 months later, Kweli was making headlines with the release of the Idle Warship debut -- his group with Philly neo-soul singer Res. He was also hitting the road and releasing the first of new music in over a decade with Mos Def -- aka Yasiin Bey -- as Black Star. Not wanting to take away from his side projects, Kweli pushed back the release of 'Prisoner of Conciousness.'
Two tracks have surfaced since: 'Burn Notice' and 'Push Thru.' Produced by RZA, Kweli introduced 'Burn Notice' live earlier this month, while 'Push Thru' features 2011's mixtape darlings Curren$y and Kendrick Lamar. "I also worked with 9th Wonder, Mos Def, Nelly and [Brazilian neo-samba-soul musician] Seu Jorge when I went down to Brazil. There are going to be some interesting guests on this album," he assures.
With 'Prisoner of Consciousness' pushed back to a 2012 release, Kweli has more time to focus on his other projects. "It's nothing for me to wake up in the morning and tweet about Idle Warship all day and then go do 'Colbert' with Mos Def, and then go into the studio and do my solo work and then go to the club and spin Chris Brown records," he shares.
"It's nothing for me, but it confuses people how I can live in all these worlds. I think I've always been this type of person. You know how people say they don't have any free time? Hogwash! I really, definitely don't have any free time. It's all separate in my head. The challenge is getting it out of my head to people."
Talib Kweli's 'Prisoner of Consciousness' is set for a 2012 debut.