Talib Kweli conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Talib Kweli

November 2002

These are the transcripts of an interview with Talib Kweli. The interview was conducted by Hugo Lunny on November 14th, 2002. Kweli is one half of the duo Black Star (with Mos Def) and Reflection Eternal (with Hi-Tek). On November 19th, Kweli will drop his debut solo album "Quality" on Rawkus Records.

MVRemix: Do you still consider yourself a "conscious" rapper?

Talib Kweli: Uhh...nah. I mean yeah, I do. Whatever. Sure. Haha.

MVRemix: You've been known to say that there's no real difference between commercial and underground hip-hop. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

Talib Kweli: Music is good music, good music is good music and bad music is bad music.

MVRemix: A lot of people have speculated as to your relationships with Mos Def and Hi-Tek. Can you shed some light on that, and what are the situations with Black Star and Reflection Eternal?

Talib Kweli: It's all love, we're gonna do another Black Star album, we're gonna do another Reflection album, definitely.

MVRemix: On Quality you go other routes for production instead of just Hi-tek. Why the change in direction?

Talib Kweli: Hi-Tek just got busy and was working on other projects, so I just decided I'd do my project, you know.

MVRemix: "Quality" is said to be a "compelling sign of [your] artistic and personal maturation." In what ways do you think this is so?

Talib Kweli: I just think it's naturally my growth as a man and I have more resources; I've been in this business longer, so it's reflected in the music.

MVRemix: From what I've heard of the album, there are a variety of deep tracks on the album. 'The Proud' and 'Where Do We Go,' for example. Can you tell me about concepts and messages aimed to be understood from Quality.

Talib Kweli: Music should be felt first, and anything that it makes you think about should be followed after. I really just wanted to make music that reflected the tracks, you know? I'd pick the tracks and I wrote what they made me think about. The track Ayatollah gave me for 'The Proud,' inspired those lyrics and the same for 'Where Do We Go.'

MVRemix: How did you and Mos hook up with Kanye West?

Talib Kweli: Kanye was a real Hip Hop head. He loves music and originally came to my sessions to get Mos Def beats, because he was originally working on Mos Def beats for like his album and the 'Brown Sugar' soundtrack and everything. I heard the beats and I liked them a lot so me and Kanye developed a good working relationship.

MVRemix: Will Kanye produce anything for the next Black Star album?

Talib Kweli: More than likely, yeah.

MVRemix: What's going on with the bookstore you and Mos own in Brooklyn?

Talib Kweli: It's called "The Nkiru Centre For Culture and Education and Community Centre," we still sell books and you can get more information on www.nkirucentre.org

MVRemix: Because you've basically changed from the Lyricist Lounge to the Okayplayer stuff. Its gone from a very grass roots level, to something more widely known. How have you been able to maintain your street credibility?

Talib Kweli: I'm still in these streets. I still live in Brooklyn. The same neighbourhoods that inspired the music I make and that's about it, you know. I'm not striving to be something I'm not, I'm always trying to be honest with my experience and my expression. Hopefully it comes across like that.

MVRemix: Both Common and The Roots are making changes in their upcoming albums and experimenting. How do you feel about that? Are you interested in ever trying something new with your music or do you feel fans wouldn't accept it.

Talib Kweli: I think it's great, I think that any artist that's free and honest is a beautiful artist. Hopefully people will look at my album in the same way, and in my future. It's always great to take chances and progress.

MVRemix: You've been doing quite a bit more work with larger label artists, and seemingly there are problems with the way Rawkus handles its business. Have you been approached by any other labels or would consider switching to a more "mainsteam" label after your current contract is up.

Talib Kweli: I've definitely been approached by different labels and major labels. I'm gonna do whatever makes sense. Right now, Rawkus makes sense for me.

MVRemix: What do we have to look forward to from you aside from evidently, the album? Collaborations, guest spots etc.

Talib Kweli: I'm on The Roots album, I'm excited about that because The Roots are just phenomenal. I'm gonna be doing some more work with Mos Def, of course. People I'm excited about...my work with Meshell Ndegeocello, I'm on her album that came out. I also don't think enough people got that album. As far as the future, there's nothing I can think of right now.

MVRemix: Did you see "8 Mile"?

Talib Kweli: Yes.

MVRemix: What did you think of how it depicted the battling culture?

Talib Kweli: I think the way they depicted the battling culture was revolutionary. I think it was great.

MVRemix: What are your thoughts on the recent murder of Jam Master Jay and the situation surrounding that?

Talib Kweli: I think it's a tragedy. This year we lost one of the founding fathers of why all of us have jobs, you know?

MVRemix: Is a freestyle, a freestyle...if it's written?

Talib Kweli: That's what it has come to mean, that wasn't the original meaning of it.

MVRemix: In your opinion, because of how large Hip Hop has grown to be. Do you think its size has helped or hindered the quality of its content?

Talib Kweli: I think the artists are going to be artists, and they're gonna have the same amount of conscious artists or gangsta artists or whatever. I think music is what the music industry choses to focus on. I don't think it changes certainly what sort of artists are going to come with a certain style of music.

MVRemix: Any last comments you'd like to put to your fans/potential fans that are going to read this?

Talib Kweli: Nah, nah. I hope they get it and listen to it with a good ear.

MVRemix: Do you have any last words for your fans or potential fans that are going to be reading this?

Talib Kweli: Just that when I record my music, it's how I'm feeling at that time. And I'll always be creative. Tell them to look out for creative music.

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