here's a q&a i did with talib kweli a few months back for UR Magazine:
ryan somers: are you getting sick of talking about the new album yet?
talib kweli: no.
r: that's good news.
t: as far as the subject matter, i'm still dealing with things that are important to my community, and i think that resonates with all types of people. the only way to appreciate somebody else's culture is to live your own. i just try to continue to grow and change.
r: i'm interested in your early days, in the mid-90s, during the so-called "indie era."
t: well, that was one of the moments i was a part of. great art comes out of a community, and i was part of a great community. i still am. some of them have kept going, some are doing other things. right now, the independent scene is not about putting out a 12", it's about myspace or whatever.
r: things have changed. in the current era, how do you appeal to the new generation?
t: it's great that i can. the one thing that keeps me around, is that i'm never scared to appreciate the new trends. i'll never say i don't like li'l wayne, or whoever. as progressive artists who are conscious, we may have a problem with accepting new trends in the music. the mysogyny, the stuff that's all about partying, rims, etc., i don't like that trend either, but i can't discount the artist because i don't like the trend. i stay focused on respecting the art, and the artists. people respect me for that. i could talk the truth without people getting offended or feeling like i'm bitter.
r: which leads to the collaboration with ugk.
t: bun b. is a good friend of mine, he's like an older bro. we had done a record for my mixtape, which just parleyed into another song.
r: and now you've started your own label too.
t: i was already doing it, with the mixtape. i figured if i was doing it already, i might as well get payed for it.
r: i was digging that track "say something," how you used that sample from lords of the underground.
t: that was recorded late in the process, in december or so. the track was aggressive. i thought it was dope, but i didn't think it was for me, because it was so aggressive. it wasn't the first thing on my mind, but i felt the album needed that. i do a lot of shows, and i gotta have songs that work for the shows. it's fun to perform something with that energy.
r: what's your favorite song?
t: all of them. that's why i put them on the record.
r: you've got jean grae on there too, and on your label.
t: that's one of my good friends.
r: my editor told me that your name means student in arabic.
t: talib is student, kweli is truth and knowledge.
r: what kind of student were you?
t: i was a good student. i'm still a student now, a student of life. the classroom exists outside of the classroom.
r: can you give me your top 5 back to school songs?
t: dead prez - schools. red hot chili peppers - catholic school girls rule. boogie down productions - blackman in effect. lip gloss - li'l mama. pink floyd - another brick in the wall.
r: you mentioned boogie down productions. on that same album, he's got a song "beef," where he references the book "eat to live," which is also a title of a song on your new album.
t: yeah, "eat to live" is like across between "beef" by krs-one and "be healthy" by dead prez. the track reminded me of brooklyn in the 70s. we weren't poor but we weren't rich at all. we lived in the hood. there are certain food issues the hood has. there are guidelines in the second verse, i don't necessarily follow them all, it's food for thought. i eat white sugar all the time.
r: what's changed for you over the last ten years?
t: i'm a little more high strung, with a little more addictive habits. going from artists to executive is very stressful. what i do is a constant, constant, constant fight. it's never easy.
r: and what's stayed the same?
t: my focus, vision, and passion have stayed the same. and i still love it just as much.
r: what would you ask yourself if you were me right now?
t: i'm definitely interested more in the actual musicality, music choices. not just me, with this art we're selling ourself, not our souls. back in the day it would be real music journalism, they would really talk about the music. but that's just the whole business.
r: yeah, it's tough, the way things work now. like, i got the CD this morning and they're like "you're talking to kweli in an hour," so it's tough to talk to you about the music, when i've only heard it once, rushing through it.
t: [leave this out] there's a catch 22 of that. between you and me, i don't want this to be in the story, but we sent it out, and now it's on the internet. you do that and then people have access to computers and can fuck you up. now i spent two hours every day taking down websites.
[i didn't include that in the edited story i gave to the magazine, but i figured it would be okay to put it up here. heck, no one reads this shit anyway...]