New York rapper Talib Kweli recently spoke on the evolving music industry and why he can respect fellow hip-hop stars like Nas, Jay-Z and Rick Ross despite rhymes he does not always agree with.
In Kweli’s perspective, a hustler’s ambition is almost vital for survival in the ever-changing music industry.
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. The guys at the top have hustles, too. Nas and Jay-Z, for instance — and he’s a fan of both — decided like many other rappers they’d focus on painting pictures of their don-like lives. “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.” (CNN)
He also spoke on the misperceptions some hip-hop fans develop from rap gods like Rick Ross.
Take Rick Ross, a correctional officer-turned-gangsta rapper who came under fire this year for lyrics glorifying date rape. 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. “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.” (CNN)
Last month, Kweli addressed Ricky Rozay and Young Money boss Lil Wayne catching heat for controversial rap lyrics.
“I feel like Lil Wayne and Rick Ross should get money. I was disappointed that they got dropped,” Talib said in an interview, referring to Pepsi Co Inc and Reebok parting ways with the rappers. “I wish they would have came with stronger apologies sooner and kept they money. The reason I said something, I wanted them to keep their money. I don’t want to see no Black man lose nothing. These companies obviously don’t have our best interests in mind. They obviously don’t. It’s also a money thing. It’s a look. That’s also why you can’t say these artists aren’t hip-hop. You can’t say Lil Wayne and Rick Ross ain’t hip-hop. From the outside looking in, these men have dedicated their lives to the music. Whether you like their output or not, they represent hip-hop for millions of people and that can’t be fronted on.” (“Sway In The Morning”)
Recently, Bad Boy Records CEO Diddy gushed over the state of rap in 2013.
“I feel like the timing of these albums coming out and these artists deciding to be honest with themselves and raising the bar… Kendrick Lamar came out and killed us and really f*cked our heads up with some realness. I think that he’s responsible for starting it, but I think these other brothers came back real hard and strong and are very, very competitive. That’s when hip-hop or music is at an all time high when people know and they respect, “Yo, that album is dope and I want my album to be better than that album,” or, “I want to challenge that album.”” (VIBE)