“Get By” by Talib Kweli (2002)

Some songs have the power to shake you out of bed in the morning and approach the new day with purpose. Talib Kweli’s “Get By” has served that purpose for me for quite some time. The message of “Get By” is so powerful because it’s based in reality. Talib takes an unflinching look at society in a post 9-11 world and looks for reasons to move forward, for himself as well as his listeners. This one part of the song gets me every time.

Even when the condition is critical, when the livin’ is miserable
Your position is pivotal, I ain’t bullshittin’ you

Kweli is an amazing rapper, probably top 20 or 25 all time. Like a lot of so-called “conscious” emcees, he is prone to self-righteousness. “Get By” largely avoids that, and is sent into the stratosphere by an amazing production job by then-neophyte Kanye West. A year or so after The Blueprint made him a production star and about 18 months before The College Dropout made him an unlikely superhero rapper, Kanye chopped up a healthy slice of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” to provide a musical backdrop for Kweli’s lyrics. It was a masterstroke that couldn’t even be topped by “Get By”‘s all-star remix, which featured West himself, along with Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z.

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