Talib means ‘seeker’ or ‘student,’ and Kweli means ‘true.’ Talib Kweli, the name given to him long before he became a rapper, matches his persona perfectly. Often viewed as the ‘Rapper of Conscious Rap,’ Talib has provided listeners with music like no other. An inspiration to his fans, plenty of other artists and the overall community, Talib is definitely someone to look towards when you are seeking motivation.
The Source was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Talib about his most recent album, ‘Gravitas,’ what he is currently working on and more! Check out the interview after the jump!
Let’s talk about your music. Tell me about ‘Gravitas.’ Where did you get the concept behind your two albums? And where did you get the idea of doing two albums?
It wasn’t my intention to do two albums. I worked very hard on it; very proud of it. It came out in December and May. I was spending sometime around Ryan Leslie who developed the platform through a website for me to put out two albums on talibkweli.com. It was just special and exciting idea to be able to reach my music directly to fans directly from my website so I just ran with it. I had a couple of musical ideas that I started with and I finished ‘Gravitas’ in couple of months.
The two albums that you put out last year. How did you feel about the reception that you received?
I feel great about both of them.
Did you prefer that method instead of using a major label?
I don’t see any major label doing it on the visionary level. I see more artist teams doing it. So as long as the team is right it doesn’t matter which label your on. It is really about your personal team.
What are you currently working on? I know you came out with two albums last year so are you working on more music at the moment?
I have my label, Javotti Media. There is Res, a singer and we’re going to put out her album. We put out CoryMo’s album, ‘Take It or Leave It,’ last year. I’m excited about that. We’re also working with a new artist called Niko Is; he is from Orlando, Florida. He just dropped a free mixtape you should definitely check it out. It’s called ‘Good Blood.’ It’s free on Live Mixtapes right now. So that is what we are focused on.
Are there any artists out right now that you are listening to?
Niko Is, Res and CoryMo. That’s why I’m working with them.
Lot of people say that you’re a conscious rapper. Are you very religious or is it spirituality?
Yeah, I’m fairly spiritual but I definitely do not subscribe to a religion.
When you say people put you on a pedestal for conscious rap do you feel like that is too much pressure on you?
It could be pressure at times but when I say rapping is just a .statement of act. It’s just something I got to deal with. I think I said that on the song ‘Demonology’. You definitely have to be aware of your place in war and how you see yourself and how the people see you and the truth that lies somewhere between those two things.
Conscious rap use to be an exception but now new comers like Macklemore have a career opposite does it feel like America is using it to water it down? How do you feel about that?
No, I think the term, breaking it down and claiming it like that, Like ‘conscious versus gangster rap,’ I think that creates more of a disturbance because it allows fans to form gangs about what they listen to rather than just experience things for what they just are. The true artists does not look at himself and say I’m conscious or I’m gangster, It’s just who they are. With many different sides and ideas.
So you feel that rappers that are conscious shouldn’t be saying it?
I won’t go as far as that they shouldn’t be saying it. I’m talking from my experience that most rappers who are conscious if you really listen to their output, they’re just being aware and awake. The term conscious rap is a beautiful thing, you know, something that if someone calls you that then you should be proud. But as an artist the conscious comes when people place you in the box and as an artist you never want to be boxed in. I don’t know a conscious rapper who doesn’t turn up, or doesn’t like sex or drugs or alcohol. People have contradictions and artists have contradictions. I feel the same way about calling someone a gangster rapper too.
Is there a point where you feel like music will not be affective to rappers to deal with their demons? Like for example, Eminem and DMX use their music to deal with their demons. You ever feel like at one point that is just not going to be affective anymore?
No, not at all. I think music is the perfect therapy for anyone to use and it always will be one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.
You’ve said before that the future is in young people. Do you think the world is traveling towards progression or regression?
I think the world is always progressing. I’m an optimist. I feel like you have to be, to be an artist. There are certain things that are regressive you know but the biggest problem in the world that there are certain things that we do that are uncivilized and barbaric; the way we treat people, going to war on certain things. But we claim to be civilized. If we could get closer to actual civilization that’ll be good.
Lot of people know that you have an activist spirit and your very big on making sure that everybody is getting along. So where did that activist spirit come from?
It comes from my parents and from my home, Brooklyn.
I’ve recently seen an interview you did and you were basically saying ‘stop asking me the same questions.’ Do you feel like everybody is focusing on the same things?
People become so hungry for hits on a blog that the integrity of journalism or even the passion goes out of the window. I’ll do a whole interview and someone will ask me a question about Macklemore or Kanye, certain names that people just click on regardless of who they are talking about. Being on a tour with Macklemore that becomes a way for journalists to ask questions about him and then the title of what the piece would be about even if there is only one question about him. So then that piece becomes not about me as a person but about what everyone else is talking about. You know, it’s tough because I answered the questions honestly. It does hesitate me to do interviews. Back in the day it would be like you are calling me from The Source and you want to do a two page spread and people would read and go ‘Ok, I’m going to go get that album.’ But now it gets posted on the blog and people be like ‘Oh, I’m going to take that and post it on my blog because he’s talking about Macklemore.’ So then everyone is eating off of Macklemore’s name.
Lot of people are celebrating Dilla because it is the anniversary of it’s passing . How do you feel about that? Do you think people make it more of it than it should be instead of just celebrating who he was?
I love all of it. Anything that can shine light on his life and celebrate his legacy, I’m all for it.