Even though Idle Warship, the collaborative project from New York’s Talib Kweli and Pennsylvania’s Res, has taken off after having been a long time coming, there are still hurdles to overcome as a joint venture. Kweli’s name and reputation looms over the project, but both artists are quick to assert their independence as a duo. “This is definitely not a Res album, or a Kweli album – it’s completely it’s own thing,” Res says.
“I just want people to understand this is not – not – a hip-hop project. This is not Talib Kweli featuring Res. This is not soul,” adds Kweli. “Just come into it with no assumptions; you might be disappointed or you might really love it. We’re just asking for people to listen with no expectations.”
Idle Warship’s debut, Habits of the Heart, is a musical sidestep from what fans might expect given their previous solo work, but that hasn’t stopped their momentum or supporters from coming to live performances in droves.
“Once you see the show you’ll know this is a real band. It’s high energy, up-tempo, and really fun,” states Res. “We’ve been working on that for the last couple years, just playing together and getting in the certain groove.”
The chemistry extends back to 2000, when Res was featured on “Too Late,” a cut off Kweli and Hi-Tek’s Reflection Eternal album, Train of Thought. The pair met through Kweli’s longtime manager Corey Smyth, CEO of Blacksmith Music, who also managed Res. During this time, the Philadelphia songstress was working with Martin “Doc” McKinney on her debut album, How I Do. “I was, like, 20 years old when we met,” recalls Res. “Basically, it’d be situations where our manager would have to drop something off, or tell him something, and I’d be hanging out. So we always crossed paths.”
A few years and a bunch of career highs and lows later, the two met back up and started to collaborate on a new project “just for fun,” Kweli says. The pair penned six songs within the first week, and after realizing there was something more to the project, decided to pursue an album and choose a band name. In October 2009, Party Robot, Idle Warship’s debut mixtape, was digitally released for free, culling blog attention worldwide. “We did Europe for about six weeks two summers ago, and because of the Internet, people were at the shows in Switzerland knowing the record,” notes Res.
Habits of the Heart came next, serving as a strong female-themed record centered on love and relationships. “It’s all based on habit of the heart,” explains Res. “We might fall for the wrong guy, but we keep falling for the wrong guy cause that’s what we’re used to.” These messages can be heard in the opening track, “Enemy,” a cut about domestic abuse, and songs such as “Covered in Fantasy,” which features Chester French and John Forte, focuses on a strong woman fighting for her worth in a relationship, while “Rat Race” tells the story of a person stepping away from the limitations of being put in a box.
For now, the duo is focusing on the album release, while gearing up to really showcase their tracks on stage. “We definitely are looking forward to touring in the coming year, maybe opening for artists and headlining a few dates,” says Res, “but we’ll see what comes.”
by Chad Ghiron // Photography by Jason Goodrich // Styling by Charlese Antoinette and Tido Cabrera