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Talib Kweli: The HipHopGods Interview

Talib Kweli: The HipHopGods Interview

Talib Kweli just returned from at trip to Puerto Rico, where the Brooklyn hip-hop vet was teaching workshops on music and touring at a local community center. It follows the release of his most recent album,The Seven with Styles P of The LOX, and his artist-curated selection for Experience Vinyl, a new vinyl subscription service. While Kweli tends to garner lots of attention for his extracurricular activity on Twitter, which often involves serious debates about racism, he’s also killing it during live shows and in the studio. The busy MC had a few moments to talk vinyl, cyberbullying and why he deems it necessary to engage internet trolls. 

 

HHG (Kyle Eustice): Some people don’t get that vinyl is an instrument … like my dad [laughs]. 

 

Talib Kweli: It’s not a traditional instrument.You gotta to say to him in the tradition of jazz, people played a washboard, rolling pins, forks and triangles. People played on what they had to play. That’s what scratching and cutting is. People used whatever they had. 

 

Yeah like blowing on bottles. 

 

Yeah. That’s essentially what cutting and scratching is. Using whatever you have around. 

 

Two months ago, you posted a list of some of your favorite albums like Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun and Bob Marley’s Legend. Your tastes are eclectic and I love that. All genres are the backbone to Hip Hop, kids needs to get educated on that. I still know every New Order song, all these random songs from the ‘80s that I can hear especially from Hip Hop artists my age. 

 

Didn’t The Weeknd blow up doing Siouxsie and the Banshees? 

 

Now he’s working with Daft Punk too and they are influenced by everyone. I love that about music, more specifically Hip Hop. The new Styles P record is dope by the way.


Thank you, thank you. We enjoyed making that record. 

 

I was hanging out with Gift of Gab and Lateef the day it came out. Lateef said he thinks your think social media game has sharpened your skills [laughs]. 

 

[Laughs] That is an unpopular opinion, but I’ll take that. I’ll take that compliment. 

 

Maybe it has. 

 

I would disagree with the skills part, but what I think what he’s correctly identifying is it has me engaging in social media has maybe sharpened my focus as far as what I wanted to talk about on my record. There was a sharp focus.

 

I read an interview where you said we don’t have the luxury not to engage with trolls and calling them trolls was almost a compliment. Why?

 

Because Jeremy Christian is going to post about how he’s going to join Trump’s Nazi army and someones going to challenge his views and he’s gonna stab them in real life — that’s why. When you see these people post these messages, these are not, at this point, people who are not having an effect on society. I just heard they’re changing the visa process so you have to include social media stuff on it. 

 

What about cyberbullying? Is that a real threat? 

 

If they say we should fight against cyberbullying, then yeah, we should fight against cyberbullying. I’m like, ‘Where I grew up at, people got punched in the face in real life.’ See what I’m saying? When the Dylan Roofs of the world, when you look at what their social media, they were telling you what they were going to do. When you see the Manchester situation, it’s a horrible, horrible tragedy. I just read this story about how the Muslim community reported this guy like 19 times. This guy was super reported by the community. He’s a problem. The breakdown wasn’t because the community was not reporting him. Even when they report him, the system is broken down. 

 

Portland hit close to home for me. My little brother takes the same train where the guy stabbed the man trying to protect those Muslim girls. 

 

That dude went to a free speech rally to do the ‘Heil Hitler’ the month before, so what that tells me is when you see these white supremacists — and they argue with me online all the time —the first thing they say is, ‘free speech, free speech, free speech,’ and they’re protected by the first amendment. 

 

Right. 


Richard Spencer can say Nazi things and then someone punches him in the face and that person who punched him in the face got arrested, so if the person who punched Richard Spencer in the face got arrested, that means that his free speech is protected. There was a consequence to punching him in the face. His free speech was protected by the law. The law arrested the guy who punched him. Richard Spencer didn’t get arrested for hate speech. That means his free speech was protected. The idea that you’re fighting for free speech — no you’re not — your free speech is not jeopardized. You just want to be a dick and say things without any consequences. The consequence for hate speech is someone might punch you in the face. That’s a consequence you have to deal with, but there’s consequences for that, too. For every action, there’s a consequence. These are people who don’t want to deal with consequence and they want their opinion to be on the level of fact. 

 

That’s not free speech. Isn’t that damaging hate speech? 


The reason I don’t even say that is because that’s their aim. They’re protecting hate speech, so for me to say it’s hate speech, they don’t care. They’re trying to be hateful. That’s their agenda, so it’s almost like a compliment. They argue on free speech … ok I have free speech, too, so fuck you. I’m using my free speech to say, ‘fuck you’ and now they’re mad. 

 

Then it’s a problem. 

 

Right. 

 

Do you ever get exhausted? I’d imagine it’s kind of like talking to brick wall sometimes. 

 

No. For two reasons: One, like I said, I come from an era where you got punched in the face for real, so online doesn’t work for me, and two because more often than not, I am not arguing or debating anybody. Come on. They might think they’re debating me. It’s all a big cycle of projection. It’s people who are miserable, looking in the mirror don’t like what they see, and they project what they don’t like about themselves on other people, particularly people of color because to the lonely guy who kind of likes rap or basketball and isn’t really good at either thinks he deserves the money. That’s black privilege to them. Like, ‘Why does he get to be black and say what he wants? I have to put a stop to this.’

 

I’ve read people tell you that you “make racism happen.” 

 

That’s accurate. To them, the reason why racism happens is because I’m a race baiter and my tweets cause division because I am always talking about racism. If I would just stop tweeting or tweet what they want me to tweet, then racism would stop. I’m causing all this racism by talking about racism all the time. 

 

I applaud you for raising awareness. 

 

Thank you. It’s not like I haven’t been in groups like Black Star and stuff like that [laughs].

 

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