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Talib Kweli: Question's and Reflections(Part 2)
by Mark Bradleo Yokim Monday, Feb. 23, 2004 at 4:53 AM
mbyokim@care2.com Garfield

Here is a second section of his questions. I may put up more, but it takes a damn long time to type all of this. Eventually I would like to have the audio available, enjoy what I got down.

When it comes to business and real life situations and stuff that is really going to empower people, like employment, he is employing women and creating situations.
And there is plenty examples of people in the music business who do great things, like Erykah Badu, who works very hard not just one a musical level, but on an activist level and everything. A whole list of women.

Anon.: When you say, like, employing women, in what field? Do you mean like videos? (Laughter)

TK: Nah, I'm talking about management. But yeah, we could start with the videos. There is definately a lot of women in the videos, alot of women. I'm talking about management. I'm talking about Disturbing the Peace Records. I'm talking about various companies that he set up. He has a alot of women that work directly with him.

Anon.: And also, do you mind if I quote you in a paper that I am writing?

TK: Sure, please.

Adam: You were saying that you feel that the Black community is predominately Democratic. And also you don't feel that a lot of candidates really represent the needs that you feel should be addressed. Do you also feel that, basically politicians go where ever, because they want to get a vote from you? And do you feel that, Blacks suffered a lot of years to finally get the vote. And then younger people finally got the age to vote lowered to eighteen. But then younger people don't vote as much as older people. And do you also feel that the lower amount of people in the Black community that vote, do you think that it has something to do with the fact that people are not representing you, as candidates for president, senator, whatever?

TK: Yeah, I think that's definately a reason. And I think that's one of the main flaws with the system. When you have politicians who will go some place just to get votes, that's not somebody that I can trust. That is not someone who has the interests of the people. Politicians are supposed to reperesent the people. But if they are only going to where people vote, and their career is based on that, that means that they are not thinking about what people need. They think about how to get votes

When you see politicians at this hip-hop summit. They are not thinking about, "Oh this is a great movement. These kids need this, these kids need that." They think, "I need them for votes." And I can't vote for somebody who needs me for votes. The only person that I could even consider myself voting for, is someone who don't even want to be a politician. Because that is how far I can trust them. Someone who the community says, we demand that you lead us, we appoint you as our leader.

If you look at the history of leadership, it is definately the people who take charge, like Dr. King took charge. Because the community recognized his power and said we would like you to represent us, we need you to represent us. That is, the leadership quality when he says yes or no. When you step up like, "Look at me. I'm a leader. Vote for me. I do this. I do that." And then you get into office and because, whether you are a liar, or because the system is set up where you can't make good on any of your promises. That means, my vote was wasted. Thats what I don't trust. That is why I feel like it's a major flaw.

Adam: Obviously, in the society that is setup, they have to get votes or they can't do anything. So, to a certain extent that's very necessary to begin there. Do you feel that if there was more of a need and there was a higher voter turnout in the black community, that more things would be getting done and more politicians will be addressing them?

TK: I think we did that in Civil Rights. There was a higher turnout and we have a lot of politicians and the community got worse. We can see the example of that. So I think the next step is to work on finding that candidate who is not going to do that. I haven't seen that person yet.

Rusell Simmons, basically behind the hip-hop summit, is tryin to register voters. I watched him register like 3000 voters in one day. I'm sitting here telling you that I don't really vote, I don't participate in the process, I dont trust it. But I'm a show up at every hip-hop summit that he does. Because I recognize that there are alot of things that we have in common. And that is whay I say, if you want to vote and your a registered voter, I encourage you to do that. I just feel like, where I'm going to place my effort and energy, is more in the community. I do music, so I feel by empowering the community, you create a situation, you create a context where you have to deal with it.

It's like the idea of hip hop, an artist like 50 cent. Most of the world heard about 50 cent when he signed through Aftermath and Shady, when he signed with Eminem's company. But the fact of the matter is that he became a presence and an entity on his own, and he developed a buzz that was so strong that he could not be denied. That's the way that I look at my politics that I look at my activsm. I want to create a buzz that is so strong on the street, that politicians have to be responsible. They got to be responsible before I give you my vote. I can't just give you my vote on promises, because all that has been is broken promises. Ans when someone wins the election, they take it from them anyway. It is hard for me to choose the lesser of two evils. But we got to be active. I would never say, sit down and don't do nothing, that's worse.

Nate: I'm a poet and an artist in other areas as well. I know in the room there are alot of other singers, MC's, and poets as well. And I know that you said once you make that decision to be an artist, from there you decide what you should consider success. But once you make that decision to be an artist, can you say something to inspire the rest of the artists in the room of what the things are that they need to do and some things that you did, in order to really get yourself out there in the beginning of your career.

TK: Well one thing that I learned and I am still learning to this day, because my situation is switched year by year and where I’m at in this business is switched year by year. It’s very unstable. The music industry is in the process of eating itself. It almost doesn’t really exist, it’s almost something that you can’t really consider a business, bercause there’s no standards or practices of business that are really respected.

So at this point, the negative thing about it is, it becomes that much harder for artists to break into the business. The positive thing is, the only artist who can be sucessful are artists who take their music seriously. And take their artistry seriously, to the point where they are doin it themselves. I’m still leanring to this day. But the most important advice I can give is do-it-yourself. There’s too many resources and too many opportunities at our fingertips for every artist in this room. If you have the time and energy to sit in this room and be in college, then you can put out a CD right now, tommorow.

Back in the days you needed the record industry, because you needed, big studios and two-inch reels. You needed these things. Now, anything that a record label can give you, or they don’t give it to you, your paying for it at a huge interest rate. You might as weel just go to the bank and get a loan and do-it-yourself. That’s the only way to guarantee success in this business, if you have done-it yourself. If you can already guarantee sales. If you can already guarantee a following. The days of A&R’s picking an artist and making a star, those days are gone. You’ll still see them, but they’ll be around for two three years at the most. So the best advice I can give you is to do it yourself. Do it now while you have the energy. Make sure that still supporting yourself, you know, don’t go broke doing it, but do-it-yourself.

Anon: My man over here asked about Mos Def. But I remember when you came out with a man named DJ Hi-Tek. I read the source interview, I was wondering if there is still a chance that you two might do an album together?

TK: Yeah I did a record with Hi-Tek last night. Hi-Tek got three songs on my new album. My new album is called beautiful struggle. I’m going out to Cincinatti in a couple of weeks. I can’t say when another Reflection Eternal album is coming, but there is definately going to be another one, just as sure as there is going to be another Black Star album.

Anon: Shabam Sadiq, your former label mate of two years ago. I remember you had a track with pretty much everybody on the Rawkus posse. But he seemed to call you and Mos Def “Book Store Revolutionaries” I think one of the more interesting aspects of Hip-hop right now is the battle and what makes it so competative. So will you ever have a response to that?

TK: To be really true, the battle is dope, and is a part of Hip-hop. What Shabam said was so random, it would be hard for me to even really take that seriously. I mean Shabam performed in the bookstore many-many times. I to this day have never even heard the song to be honest with you. Shabam came in a magazine, amonth after he made the song, and apologized in the magazine. It was like, “Yeah I was just high, I didn’t know what I wsa talking about.” I don’t even know what made him make that record, I haven’t seen him since he made that record, so I really don’t know.

Matt: Greetings my brother. I was wondering whether you could share some of your views on reparations, for blacks throughout the diaspora?

TK: This is how I feel about reparations.I definitely believe in my heart that we are do reparations. With out a doubt, I feel that. But I acknowledge the realities of my enemy and where we live at. And realistically this is my opinion. For the American Government to give African people reparations is to acknoledge this entire governement, this entire system is based on lies and deciet. If they acknowledge that it is based on lies and deciet, they have to destroy it. So if they want to give us reparations it would mean tearing down what we have now and building from the top. That’s the only way that we can get reparations. I mean building from the bottom With that said, I don’t think that they are ever going to do that, and I don’t think that is realistic.

Now if someone give me a piece of paper and says we need reparations and we’re gonna fight and we’re gonna try to get it, I will sign it. And I’ll show up at the rally and I’ll support them, but the way I honestly feel about them is, that’s not a fight that I’m fighting. I’m not fighting to beg them to give us something that they are not going to give to us. I’d rather us build on our own and get our own reparations. (Applause)

Matt: Well what about education, if they throw in some more countermeasures as far as education wise and free healthcare for the African-Americans in the Community, a little something?

TK: I mean, that’s the problem in politics because of problems. As soon as it becomes politcally correct to say, well that’s unfair, they can dismantle that. And we can fight for that, fight for that. There can be legislation made for that and then the country takes a conservative turn four years from now and they take it away. That seems to happen so much in our history, to me it seems like a false hope. I’d rather build something concrete that they can’t take away from us. Something that we own, that’s our own.

Anon: I just wanted to say that what your doing with Hip-hop is genuine, you can’t find that nowhere, that shit is gone. It’s still growing through you and through the youth but, where it started at is gone. I heard you say that Hip-hop, where it’s at is golden, it’s great right now. But rap in general right now I feel is in danger. It’s representing the wrong tings at the wrong time. If we are going to push hip-hop, we need to push hip-hop to the fullest. You can’t just push hip-hop half way.

My question to you is, how do we express to the youth about education? How are we going to start from the grassroots? Where are we going to go with it? Because a lot of people have their perceptions confused, they’re not educating themselves. They’re pushing the wrong products, they’re doing the wrong things. On top of that, they feel that getting the hustle is right. Getting the hustle is right in some terms, but where is the right turn at and when are we going to find it within ourselves, as a community. And not even just a Black community; the Asian, the Hispanic, the White commuinty, collectively, in order to find unity amongst one another. When is that going to surface amongst the Black community, I would say educationally? Where is Hip-hop in itself, artists like yourself, Mos Def, KRS, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, you know, inspirations that I grew up on. When is it going to sink in the things that you guys have founded for us through Hip-hop, when is it going to sink into the Black community.

TK: I still stand by what I said as far as Hip-hop, I do think that it’s in a beautiful place right now. When I grew up listening to Hip-hop, there was no BET, there was no Hip-hop on MTV. If you was outside of New York, there might have been Hip-hop on an AM station, that you had to try to find all night just to finally sit around and listen to Hip-hop. But to think about how underground that is. Think about how when you was loving Rakim and Big Daddy Kane, that the majority of the country didn’t know who they were.

Now they say that Jay-Z is the best or one of the best MC’s. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know who Jay-Z is. So it’s a different game. We didn’t measure Hip-hop back then. It was just if you was down by law, if you was down by law it was good enough. It didn’t matter how many white people knew about you. It didn’t matter whether you was on the cover of Time magazine, you just had to be down by law. Now Hip-hop today, you have a lot of artists who are like that, that are down by law. You have Dead Prez, you have myself and what I’ve been able to do with Mos. You have an artist like Kanye West who is about to sell two million records, god willing. And his album is very very positive, very spiritual, very well thought out, very musical.

There are so many examples. We could sit here and talk a lot about all the different examples. You know the slum villages and the little brothers, the people who carried Jean Grae, the people who carried the torch of hip-hop, that you got to dig beneath the surface to find. As far as it being in the community, when it comes to that type of shit, my whole attitude is, fuck hip-hop.

Hip-hop is a tool it’s a vehicle and it is beautiful, but we have to acknowledge it for what it is. It is not something that is going to… I have a real life, I have a real family. If I couldn’t rap right now I would still have to take care of them. So when it comes to community building, Hip-hop is a tool, but that’s what it is. It’s a tool I put to the side when I want to use a different tool. One of the different tools I’ve used is my family. My kids go to the same school that I went to when I was five. They have the same teachers that I had. There’s new teachers and others involved in the school but, it is a continuing tradition. I have examples in my life of organizations, like the Malcom X grassroots movement in Brooklyn and all types of people doiong things. It’s my job as an artist to take those values and take those things that people are doing and bring them out into the world.

I’ve been able to get big radio play and big video play, and reach people directly. You know I’ve been able to go around and do shows and make a living and make a career off of it. So the things that your speaking about, it might be frustrating if they’re not there in your face, but they’re there. And we should celebrate them whenever we see them. I did a record with Styles P last night. The first thing he says is, “I got to testify/why did Malcom get killed by an NOI?/Why’d Mandela did all them years/All that blood, all that sweat, cry all them tears?” Niggers is coming like that, ya know what I’m sayin’? And if you not, if you don’t got nothing to say at this point, ain’t nobody going to be paying attention in a minute. And I honestly see the music going in that direction.

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