One of the most intellectually respected MCs in hip hop, Talib Kweli first came to prominence in 1998 as one half of the duo Black Star, whose classic album Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, brought a sense of consciousness and Afro-centrism to hip hop, reminiscent of the Native Tongues era. Son of a University administrator and an English professor, the Brooklyn-born lyricist seemed destined to be a truth seeker by birthright. (“Talib” is the Arabic word for “student,” while Kweli is Swahili for “truth.”) He has collaborated with Kanye West, Mary J. Blige and DJ Hi Tek; his latest album is the independently released Gutter Rainbows. Kweli also serves as a spokesperson and mentor for P'Tones Records, a non-profit after-school music program for urban youth. The musician-activist made global headlines when he traveled to Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 to join the community in protesting the police shooting of Michael Brown.