While you were debating the merits of Yeezus or Born Sinner, you might have forgotten that Talib Kweli finally dropped his long anticipated new album, Prisoner Of Conscious, back in May. The Brooklyn lyricist was recently profiled on CNN, where he discussed his career’s trajectory, noting that being successful in Hip-Hop isn’t always dependent on talent.
The relatively lengthy story looked at the acclaim Kweli has achieved despite staying steadfast in creating music that has branded him with the conscious label. The topic of commercial radio came up and, like most, the “Get By” rapper believes some great Hip-Hop just isn’t getting played.
Kweli doesn’t think the best music is making it to the airwaves these days. For an artist to get noticed without label connections (see: career trajectories of J. Cole and Meek Mill), they have to work just as hard at promoting as they do at creating, he said.
“It’s not really a talent-based game right now. No one takes a gamble. In order for you to have music, you have to be a hustler,” he said.
Inevitably some will see those words as a shot at artists like Jay-Z and Nas, or maybe even Rick Ross. Kweli’s commentary shows that is not the case.
On Hova & God’s Son:
“You hear it in their lyrics: a lot of lyrics about money — sex, drugs and money and capitalism and greed,” Kweli said. “Not to say that’s what defines them as men, but that’s what a lot of their music revolved around, the themes and the pathologies in the ‘hood.”
This is where Kweli’s views are anything but black and white. He’d never include such content in his own rhymes, but he’d also never condemn another rapper for it, even when fans think he should.
“I don’t buy that,” he said.
On Ricky Rozay:
Take Rick Ross, a correctional officer-turned-gangsta rapper who came under fire this year for lyrics glorifying date r-pe.
Kweli said that Ross, as revolting as his word choice may have been, was a victim of circumstance while other rappers have skated for far worse lyrics. While Kweli would never condone date rape, or the Maybach Music boss’ drug lord persona, he thinks focusing on that distracts from real problems in America’s communities.
Artists don’t create an environment. Artists look at the environment, and the best artists correctly diagnose the problem.
“He sounds like he’s living the life of a drug dealer, but I see him putting out records. I think people get it twisted sometimes,” Kweli said. “It’s a little frustrating that people look at hip-hop with such a narrow lens, and sometimes hip-hop don’t help.”
Read the full story over at CNN.