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Years and years before Kanye was who he is today – an extremely polarising artist who has transcended music – he was a struggling rapper-producer trying to catch is big break in the industry.

It was Talib Kweli who was one of the first artists in the game who was willing to support him, allowing the Chicago rapper to go on the road with him. It’s a memory that Kanye has always looked back fondly on.

“My relationship with Kweli, I think, was one of the best ones to ever happen to my career as a rapper,” he recalled on The College Dropout closing track. “Because, you know, of course, later he allowed me to go on tour with him. Man, I appre– I love him for that.”

In his 2021 memoir, Vibrate Higher, Talib recalled back in the early ’00s when Kanye was one of the first artists to be embraced by the mainstream and underground fanbases, and that he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been signed yet.

“While I was opening for Common as he toured his Electric Circus album around the country in 2003, Kanye asked if he could come on tour with me,” Talib remembers. “Kanye was already becoming one of my favorite artists. He was struggling to get a record deal, and I was struggling to understand why.”

“To my ears, the bars he went around spitting to anyone who would listen were pretty impressive. The rest of the industry seemed to be so blinded by his superb production that they couldn’t even hear his rhymes; they were too busy trying to get his beats from him to care.”

Talib also recalled Kanye laying out the blueprint for the next few years of his career while on tour together in 2003 – from his game-changing debut to the seminal Graduation.

Talib Kweli: When Kanye hopped on my tour bus in 2003, he was already saying he was going to be the biggest hip-hop artist in the world. He told everyone that his first three albums would be The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation. Most folks nodded and smiled, while others outright questioned his sanity. Kanye was unbothered. He was like a firecracker, always energetic and always ready to rhyme.

Talib Kweli Reflects on his Relationship with Kanye West in New Memoir Vibrate Higher | GQ
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