Rapper’s Delight

Flatbush native Talib Kweli recently moved to Carroll Gardens. The rapper sounded vaguely uncomfortable about this turn of events when reached by phone Monday, hesitating a second too long when asked to specify where exactly in Brooklyn he has been living. He’s been there only a little while, he said, but he loves it.

And why shouldn’t he? It’s not like Mr. Kweli has a gangster reputation to uphold. Rather, he has spent his career projecting an image of wisdom and political engagement, casting himself as a ponderous older brother, an antidote to commercial, thuggy rap. With five albums behind him, Mr. Kweli has established himself as an icon of conscious rap.

This coming Sunday, he will be performing at the 10th Annual Black August concert, which benefits political prisoners.

Still Mr. Kweli is squeamish about the C-word—“I don’t think ‘conscious rap’ is a flag we need to wave”—and he professes his enthusiasm for radio rappers Lil’ Wayne and Clipse with urgency. His new album, Ear Drum, meanwhile, features a guest appearance by Justin Timberlake.

It would seem that Mr. Kweli’s principles are growing more complicated as he ages. The ideologues in his audience, he says, who dare take issue with his maturation—and, specifically, his affiliation with Mr. Timberlake—aren’t real fans anyway. And anyway, it’s true—Carroll Gardens is really pretty nice!

Rapper’s Delight