Talib Kweli - conducted by DJ Hyphen & J. Moore  

Talib Kweli: Sunday Night Sound Session

September 2006

MVRemix: I wanna explore this "free" option, because you've actually said that - I don't know if it's true or you're just joking, maybe it's just an I-Tunes distributed deal - but you're actually thinking about putting this whole album out for free...

Talib Kweli: I've been thinkin' about it, the more I think about it I'm 85-90% sure I'ma do that.

MVRemix: That's what I do with my mixtapes, it's all about the music.

Talib Kweli: Yeah, but you know, then go buy the album with the barcode on it [chuckles].

MVRemix: You talked about the romantic idea in terms of trying to return to the glory day or if it's for some people, some fans - the mid 90's, for some people born into Hip Hop - the early 80's. But things evolve, things grow...

Talib Kweli: I think some fans should look at the music I've made and other artists like me as a testament to the culture and how we're still here and relevant. There's a lot of artists I came out with that are not relevant and not on the scene anymore because of the fact that I embraced the changes. If I would've stayed tryin' to make the music that I wanna make, man, it wouldn't be no none of this going on.

MVRemix: So speaking of that, you and Mos re-united to do a track on the Chappelle "Block Party" soundtrack, which I think a lot of people don't even know that that was out.

Talib Kweli: Me and Mos do a few songs a year that come out.

MVRemix: What's your thoughts on him performing "Katrina Clap" at the VMA's outside in public, got arrested on that. What are your thoughts on that whole situation? Did you get a chance to see the video yet? I know it's up on YouTube.

Talib Kweli: Nah, I ain't see that. About three people e-mailed it to me. I didn't look at it yet.

MVRemix: It's kind of crazy, it's on YouTube, you can look at it.

Talib Kweli: I mean, Mos Def is a real gangsta. All these fake studio corporate rappers be on these countdowns talkin' about how they real and they represent the reality and that. That was some real gangsta business. Where it's like "Okay." The way Mos deals with his music, the way Mos deals with his music is a lot closer to the realities of everyday life. You're lead to believe that... I'm listenin' to radio or watchin' TV and...

MVRemix: "Shoulder lean..."

Talib Kweli: Right. I like "Shoulder Lean," Young Dro can actually rap better than a lot of these dudes out nowadays. He can actually rap, he'll say something that will make me sing along. It's fun to say "My girl got a girlfriend," it's fun. But I like rims, I like patrone - it's great, but there's other things we can rap about and that's closer to the reality, to me.

MVRemix: Speaking of Katrina, I know you did a lot of work to get the word out earlier on the mis-treatment of a lot of those people who were displaced by the tragedy. So a year passed the disaster, what are your feelings on how that situation is currently being handled? You were working on the hotel stuff in New York where people were kind of being kicked out - what was the outcome of that?

Talib Kweli: I don't know the outcome of that particular situation, but I do know that the craziest thing about that is the timing and what we've been dealing with, with this government. It's like that Spike Lee thing, "When The Levees Broke," one of the most poignant points that someone made is we're living in a country where the government is making so many mistakes on this level and they just gettin' a pass. It's just amazing that people can see the actual results; people dying, people dead in the water and still say, "Well maybe the government did do they job, maybe this and maybe this and that..." That's just a shame, New Orleans was destitute and desolate way before Katrina and the storm just sort of ripped the top off of it and exposed it a little bit.

MVRemix: That's interesting on a social level too because a lot of times the music that is played and broadcast, there aren't any songs of protest. In an age where there's all these different things, where there's Katrina, where there's the war in Iraq...

Talib Kweli: There is songs of protest...

MVRemix: No, no, no, they are - it's just in terms of being given light...

Talib Kweli: Nah, they're not given light. I mean people ran out and made songs... Everybody did. 9/11 Jermaine Dupri produced an all-star with Nelly and all these people, they didn't play that on the radio at all because it didn't suit, it didn't fit into the bottom line, it didn't fit the corporate interest. I had to get over my "Hip Hop For Respect" experience where me and Mos put together a bunch of artists to talk about the Amadou Diallo situation, man, the resistance! That was a real reality check to me, the resistance from programming directors and DJ's. Organized Noize produced the record, it was me, Pharoah Monche, Posdonous, Sporty Thievz, Kool G Rap and Rah Digga. We had the other version with Dead Prez, Brand Nubian... Everyone in New York got on that record and they just was so resistant to it - like "We're not even gonna play it once."

MVRemix: How do you feel look at being titled, after the late 90's boom, the whole indie Hip Hop boom, everyone was so quick to label you, Mos, Pharoah as "conscious" emcees - that title, obviously nobody likes to be pigeon-holed like that and personally I feel it's kind of used to dismiss music by saying "Just a conscious emcee."

Talib Kweli: Of course, it's very dismissive - it would be very dismissive to call somebody a gangsta rapper if that wasn't the popular trend. Is Jay-Z a gangsta rapper? Yeah, but to say that is to discredit everything else he is. Right, so to say, "Is Kweli a conscious rapper?" Sure, I'll wear that title with pride, I inject consciousness in my music but that's why I make the point to say what I talk about is closer to reality than what the mainstream rap is, because it's done to, sort of a shortcut to thinking. To sort of put you in a place to some alternative, and it comes from a place that's not genuine at all. When I started in this business, my contemporaries and my peers - I worked for Puff. Funkmaster Flex was playing Souls of Mischief rappers at the Tunnel, when I started rapping. It was never a thing of it being different, you could be Brand Nubian hat and have the hit street record at the time, so that's the era I come from and no-one can tell me that, "You can't be both."

>> continued...

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"It's fun to say "My girl got a girlfriend," it's fun. But I like rims, I like patrone - it's great, but there's other things we can rap about and that's closer to the reality, to me."