Talib Kweli stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night to deliver an uplifting performance of his optimistic song “Heads Up Eyes Open” with singer Yummy Bingham and guest rapper Rick Ross alongside house band The Roots. Kweli’s latest release, Radio Silence is chock-full of other unexpected collaborations like this one, including a rare appearance from Jay Electronica and an energetic turn from Waka Flocka Flame, who seeks to shed his “non-lyrical trap rapper” image.
While the lead single from Radio Silence is “Traveling Light” with Kaytranada and Anderson Paak, the strategy of using late-night performances to reveal further singles or expand the public’s knowledge of an albums guest list has been used before, and with Kweli releasing the album independently of the major label mega-machine for promotion, it’s a smart look from a rapper known for his intelligent lyrics and self-reliant ethos.
Rick Ross may not be the first person to spring to mind when you think of perfect collaborators with Kweli, but historically, pairing him with top tier talent usually brings out his best performances, and “Heads Up Eyes Open” is no exception. The pairing may seem odd on paper, but their straightforward late-night performance proves that it’s a collaboration that works.