Talib Kweli's Rap With a Conscience

Interview

Friday, April 25, 2014

Talib Kweli Talib Kweli (Courtesy of the artist)

Talib Kweli made a name for himself in the late ‘90s as one half of the hip hop duo Black Star, with Mos Def. Since then, Kweli has carried on the tradition of socially conscious hip hop, addressing issues like police brutality and the overrepresentation of African Americans in prison.

On the track “State of Grace” from his latest album, Gravitas, Kweli takes on commercial hip hop’s casual misogyny. “Our sisters worth more than grinding on the wall half-naked,” he raps.

In conversation with Kurt Andersen in 2007, Kweli talks about the role of politics in his music — but also the need to separate the work from the artist. “It’s not the artist’s job to be politically correct or morally upstanding,” he tells Kurt. Although he’s carried the torch of “conscious” rap for years, he won’t preach to his fellow rappers. “It’s the artist’s job to be honest with how they express themselves. Sometimes you have real jerks create great art, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”

Kweli also takes issue with what he calls the “uproar” over rap’s frequent use of the term “nigger.” “There’s a hundred things to have uproar over. If we stop saying it, is there going to be better fruit in the neighborhood grocery store? I don’t understand.”

(Originally aired: August 17, 2007)

    Music Playlist
  1. Everything Man
    Artist: Talib Kweli
    Album: Eardrum
    Label: Blacksmith/WBR
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Country Cousins
    Artist: Talib Kweli
    Album: Ear Drum
    Label: Blacksmith
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Tell Her
    Artist: Fred Williams & the Jewels Band
    Album: Midwest Funk
    Label: Jazzman
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Listen
    Artist: Talib Kweli
    Album: Ear Drum
    Label: Blacksmith
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Rare Portraits
    Artist: Talib Kweli
    Album: Gravitas
    Label: Javotti Media
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Respiration
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    Album: Black Star
    Label: Rawkus
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Talib Kweli

Produced by:

Derek John

Comments [2]

Kelly Jean from Suffolk,N.Y.

I admit i was totally on board. As well inspired. Im 29 have a 5 year old son. I grew up on all the hip hop;rap,in the day; but theres more to it!?" A greater substance",Ive seen lost. Im glad it was addressed, informally. Just, awards;), to, 'raised awareness'..The cure to better though.. Thats gotta be a census.

May. 02 2014 12:50 AM
LKS from Philly

'Kweli also takes issue with what he calls the “uproar” over rap’s frequent use of the term “nigger.” “There’s a hundred things to have uproar over. If we stop saying it, is there going to be better fruit in the neighborhood grocery store? I don’t understand.'

Nope it won't put fruit in grocery stores but in all the thousands of words in the english language this is what you chose to call a friend, a relative, a loved one- anybody?! for a 'conscience' rapper this should be a no brainer. YOU can do better. WE can do better.

Apr. 28 2014 10:46 AM

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