Talib Kweli Reveals What He Thinks Is Missing From Today’s Hip-Hop & Journalism
In a recent interview for Cultured Vultures, rapper Talib Kweli opened up to a young writer about the topical and philosophical, ranging from his thoughts on Indie 500, Hip-Hop’s global appeal, the state of music journalism, and much more. Kweli’s pedigrees as both an accomplished activist and writer are repeatedly acknowledged, as well, with the Brooklyn MC touching upon his recent critique of Pitchfork’s Indie 500 review, which was published on Medium (you can read his “My Review of Pitchfork’s Indie 500 Review” here). As he tells Cultured Vulture writer Callum Davies, “I feel like there’s a generation of music people who love music and are good journalists, and I think it’s a shame that Pitchfork, Complex and other mainstream sites that have a lot of followers don’t have a better editing process. That they don’t make sure that the people who write reviews for them get the information right, at the very least.” He goes on to add:
Music is a natural resource, there’s always going to be people who love music, and who are good at writing about it, but unfortunately we live in this disposable culture where sites have to get eyes on them as quickly as they can, they have to have everything instantly, so they don’t have a chance to really take the art in, as it’s meant to be appreciated. A lot of these reviewers write for its own sake, and to get it out first.
Kweli Heads are probably familiar with his fluent use of Twitter, which he uses to ignite passionate discussions about a host of topics, including his thoughts about the current state of music journalism (“I think that social media and social networking has allowed people to see more of artists in general. People get to see more of me now, and that adds another dimension to what I do”). Whether or not some of his words in the new interview were inspired by a recent interaction he had with writers regarding what he viewed as an unfavorable op-ed published by Complex isn’t clear, but the source of his words are not necessarily important; his argument that microwave journalism has helped deteriorate much of Hip-Hop’s coverage into gossip-ridden content farms is a point many agree with.
A superficial reading of his words and arguments could seem to point to his affinity for the “old school,” with not much appreciation for the current generation of artists, but the reality is far different. As Kweli tells Davies, “Drake and Future are very trendy, but they’re going in the opposite direction to somebody like Kendrick. I like both sides, I like all of it, I like all of where Hip-Hop is going.” His appreciation for what the “new school” is doing goes further, but he still feels that many artists today have some creative and artistic leaps to make. ” I do especially like the way that people like Kendrick are incorporating live instrumentation into their work, and generally exploring the history and canon of Black music,” he says. “I think that’s something that’s been missing from mainstream music for too long.” The inherent power he sees in Hip-Hop extends beyond its influence in music, something he hopes manifests itself in today’s artists. “Hip-hop is growing up, it’s becoming more accepted in the mainstream, it’s also becoming more acceptable in academia, which is a good thing…I think if artists like 9th Wonder and others like him, who are super involved in Hip-Hop involve themselves in academics, it can only yield positive results.”
Ever the insightful speaker, Talib Kweli’s recent words are really a call to action more than a critique; it’s evident his ultimate goal in pointing out what he feels is missing from the culture is only a method to make it stronger. Do you feel his words are reflective of places where Hip-Hop as a culture can improve?