Los Angeles, CA – In the latest installment of Soulful Sundays, HipHopDX’s Editor-In-Chief Trent Clark chats with Talib Kweli at Comfort LA in downtown Los Angeles.
For over 20 years, the Brooklyn-born MC has been a voice of reason who can “edutain” while intellectually exposing his fans and dectractors’ brittle psyche in the same breath.
Clark and Kweli discuss why rap fans are quick to judge lyricists such as Nas and himself as selectors of subpar beats.
Kweli says, “People are intimidated by lyrics. So, that’s a way to say you’re intimidated by the lyrics without admitting that you’re intimidated by the lyrics.”
The Black Star MC talks more about his keen ear for choosing samples despite his lack of production credits.
“A lot of the samples that you hear on Black Star or Reflection Eternal came straight from my father’s record collection,” he says. “I’ve never been a producer. I’ve just always had a good ear and say ‘that’s from that.’”
Further in the interview, Kweli assesses why he believes his best album was Reflection Eternal’s Train Of Thought, and why he appreciates trap music and mumble rappers.
“As a lyricist, me as someone who had to learn how to rhyme to the beat, I appreciate just hearing trap rappers and mumble rappers,” Kweli says.
He adds, “I appreciate people like Travis Scott and Future and Migos who are not as lyrical but are able to create a vibe. The reason why I can appreciate it is because they can’t do what I do. They’ll never be as good as me as doing what I do because I got that on lock. So, since it’s like I got that on lock, well how can I be a better musician? Being a better musician is creating a vibe and the way that people respond, and the way that people respond to these artists is because they’re creating a good vibe. It doesn’t have to be all about lyrics. But if we’re going to have a lyrical discussion, then I’m going to be at the top of that food chain.”
Kweli prides himself as a social media maven who thrives on sparring with trolls and engaging with fans. He talks in depth about why he believes Twitter makes him a better human being.
“I’m on Twitter because I thoroughly enjoy it,” he says.
Kweli continues, “Why do I enjoy about it? I enjoy the discourse. I enjoy the back and forth. It makes me a better human being. When I’m out there putting my full self out there, and let’s say I critique somebody — I used to be the type of dude to walk around and be like ‘That’s retarded.’ Let’s say I get on Twitter and say that. Somebody gets on Twitter and says, ‘Kweli, that’s ablist. You can do better. Why are you using ‘retarded?’ There are people who are mentally challenged. I grow from my interactions from Twitter.”
He also cites that his activism on Twitter is an extension of the messaging in his music. The “Get By” rapper dissects the hypocrisy of fans who question his vitriol against racists, and why his own tweets strengthen his legacy.
“I enjoy being able to promote my music and all that, but I enjoy exposing racists and exposing bigots, and using them as vehicles and tools to get my message across,” he says.
Kweli adds, “My tweets, my activism, the way I run my life, it mirrors my music — all one thing. That’s the quickest way for me to know you’re a fake fan or a white supremacist like Kweli, man, I love Black Star. I love ‘Get By’ but I just don’t get why you tweet like this. You wasn’t listening. These tweets say exactly the same shit.
“My lyrics are aggressive. My lyrics are not passive. My lyrics ain’t let’s all get along, let’s be happy. My lyrics are ‘fuck the status quo, fuck white supremacy, I’m pro-black, I’m pro social justice. That’s what my whole lyrical output is.”
Soulful Sundays airs every other Sunday at 9 a.m. PST.