Talib Kweli Reflects on his Relationship with Kanye
February 22, 2021 9:17 PM   Subscribe

GQ: Read Chapter 22 of rapper Talib Kweli's memoir, revealing some insight into his life and that of Mr. West.
posted by kfholy (16 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This was interesting, thanks for posting it. But also pretty unsurprising, if you had asked me before I read this what Talib Kweli thought of Kanye West, I'd have assumed that he respected his talent but could not stand his recent pro-Trump position. I hope Kanye returns from that precipice as well, but I can't say I'm holding my breath.
posted by axiom at 11:24 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

"Get By" was a revitalizing and powerful song when I first heard it in high school, full of strength and heart. It's awesome to read that legends in the industry immediately felt the power in it upon first hearing. I love Kweli's doggedness in securing the beat, and glad he got to work with it instead of Mariah (although I'm sure Kanye had a vision for what it could have been in her hands).

Also, hearing about Kweli's anxiety on his verse getting shifted in "Get Em High" is encouraging to hear as a creative in another field. The lead-up to his verse & the bars themselves were the only things I liked about the track ("You mean Talib, lyrics stick to your rib/ That's my favorite CD that I play at my crib/ You don't really know him, why is you lyin!"). To hear that Kweli felt the placement shift threw off the entire flow is the kind fretting I do about a pixel or a line in an illustration, when many others colleagues & friends in visual art couldn't care either way & enjoy it regardless of my hyperfocus & getting lost in the noodling (the details add up!). I also like to think that Kanye, whether conscious of it or not (given the insane turnaround), viscerally felt that Kweli's verse felt "correct" in where it now stands. Either way, awesome to get a peek under the hood for these seminal works of art.

As I'm getting a tad older, even if I disagree with Kanye's recent views on politics and his approach to sharing his thoughts, I appreciate the work he's done on a very different level than how I passively consumed it in my youth. Even the "Jesus is King" album is IMHO a fantastic work of gospel art that by-and-large reflects Bible truths with a surprising level of consistency to what the gospel is about, sans a few egocentric whack-a-mole type emergences of the fallen self that get in the way of anyone pursuing the Christian faith in earnest.

I hope next time the public sees Kanye, at his behest and on his terms, Kanye is of sound mind and full of peace in his heart, whether or not he releases art for the public to consume. And if he just lives a quiet life out of the public eye from hereon out, I hope he still has that same peace & soundness either way.
posted by room9 at 6:50 AM on February 23 [13 favorites]

Did we never do an FPP about Talib Kweli being permabanned from Twitter for organized harassment campaigns against Black women? Because that definitely happened.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:32 AM on February 23 [29 favorites]

Everybody has contradictions—why should artists be different? Because the artist’s platform can be so much bigger than the average person’s, artists are often held to a higher standard in the eyes of their peers. The responsibility of this expectation falls on the artist, not the consumer of art, but too often the consumer fails to realize that the artist can be a victim of the same pathologies as those that he/she is making the art for.
posted by box at 8:14 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

I'm new here, do you recommend removing the post?
posted by kfholy at 8:17 AM on February 23

It’s not up to me, but I think the post is fine. It’s an interesting read. DirtyOldTown’s comment gives us valuable context.
posted by chrchr at 8:31 AM on February 23 [8 favorites]

DirtyOldTown’s comment gives us valuable context.

Yeah I probably wouldn’t have seen that article if not for the thread so...
posted by atoxyl at 8:37 AM on February 23 [7 favorites]

Ok, thanks.
posted by kfholy at 8:40 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

kfholy: welcome and thanks for the post! I learned from the article and the comments :)
posted by sixswitch at 9:15 AM on February 23 [9 favorites]

A quick trip through Talib Kweli's rap career leading up to the era he writes about here:

Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli) - 'Definition', 'Respiration'
Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek) - 'The Blast', 'Four Women'
Quality (Talib Kweli) - Get By, 'Get By (Remix)', 'Guerrilla Monsoon Rap' (produced by Kanye, ft. Pharoahe Monch and Black Thought)
posted by box at 9:24 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]

Thank you for posting the tunes, box! This track from DangerDoom combines so many things I love.. DOOM, Saturday cartoons, silliness: Old School.
posted by elkevelvet at 9:52 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

Yeah, there's been a disappointing trend of some of the 90s conscious rappers ending up hotep/misogynist, and Kweli is one. I'm sure his memoirs will nonetheless be very interesting to read.
posted by praemunire at 11:37 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]

I think this collection of Kanye’s appearances on Def Poetry Jam from 2004 to 2006 show you a lot of the person he was when Talib first knew him. You can see here the ambition, the restlessness, and — especially in the last clip — how fame and success fed his ego. He even wears the Louis Vuitton book bag!
posted by chrchr at 11:44 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Here's 'Get Well Soon,' (Soundcloud, will probably be deleted at some point) (Genius), a 2003 (pre-College Dropout) mixtape, probably the last thing Kanye released when he was still known more for beats than for rapping.

The sound quality's not great, but, if you stick around, you can hear early versions of a lot of songs that wound up on The College Dropout, including a version of 'Through the Wire' with an Elton John sample, and some peak-Roc-a-Fella rarities.
posted by box at 12:07 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's been a disappointing trend of some of the 90s conscious rappers ending up hotep/misogynist, and Kweli is one. I'm sure his memoirs will nonetheless be very interesting to read.

Went to listen to Get Em High for the first time in years after reading this excerpt, and oof, Talib's verse:

"Anyways, I don't usually fuck with the Internet
Or chicks with birth control stuck to they arm like Nicorette
You really fuckin' that much or tryna get off cigarettes? (Keep 'em high)"
posted by lunasol at 4:02 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]

I love that Talib Kweli mentions the LV backpack because that truly was the first thing that caught my eye when I first saw Kanye perform on TV, pretty sure this was just before College Dropout was released so he wasn't Kanye West in the public eye just yet. In my memory, he ran on stage with an energy that felt fresh/new and I was like who is this dude with the LV backpack and then was blown away by his performance.

I've always had a bit of a fondness for Ye, although 2016 cured that bit. I'll admit some of that fondness was there because there were some dudes in my extended social circle that hated Kanye so fiercely that always left me a bit uncomfortable, so I sort of took delight in the fact that he made them that mad. Of course post-2016, I think some of those dudes may love him now.
posted by later, paladudes at 10:50 PM on February 23

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