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Talib Kweli: Rapper and activist speaks to Millersville

Shianne Hargrove
Staff Writer

Hip-Hop fans, interested students and faculty alike all joined Tuesday, Nov. 11 at the Student Memorial Center’s Multipurpose Room to hear rapper/activist Talib Kweli speak on the subject of Hip-Hop. The air was filled with excitement and curiosity to hear a man who has been a prominent figure in the Hip-Hop community.

Talib Kweli is an iconic rapper who has formulated a space in the Hip-Hop scene since 1995. He has produced such albums as the highly acclaimed “Black Star” with rapper Yassin Bey aka Mos Def, and the album “Train of Thought” which he created with producer Hi-Tek. Working with other rappers like Kanye West, Common and J.Cole, Talib Kweli has stretched his talents all over. Known as one of the most socially and politically aware rappers in the industry, Talib Kweli showcased that awareness last Tuesday to a packed audience.

Kweli opened with a story about the power of words and how the words of activists like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael had shaped his sixth album “Eardrum,” which was released in 2007. He talked about the political aspects of what it means to intertwine activists like Carmichael into his music, and he even told of when he was recorded by the FBI.

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“I was listening to a speech that was forty years old,” he states referring to when he was detained and questions about his use of a Carmichael speech in one of his songs. This lead Kweli into the issue of “shouldering the responsibility” when it comes to being a rapper. He talks about the roles rappers have to take when it comes to issues of community, financial burdens and the industry as a whole. Letting these issues sink in with the audience, Mr. Kweli shifts to the history of Hip-Hop, opening up about its roots.

Rapper/activist Talib Kweli spoke on the subject of Hip-Hop.
Rapper/activist Talib Kweli spoke on the subject of Hip-Hop.

“Hip-Hop culture is woven in the New York society,” he states. He goes on to cite rappers like Biggie, Nas and Jay-Z as influential, focusing on their individual stories and how their paths have impacted Hip-Hop’s collective identity.

Kweli moves the audience on a course through his early years. “I gravitated towards pop and techno long before Hip-Hop,” laughing about tapping pop hits on cassettes. “In 1988, I started listening through friends about Hip-Hop in JR high… I gravitated towards MC who had content,” citing rappers like KRS-One, Eric B & Rakim and ENC B as his early influences.

One audience member begged the question about new rappers today like Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. “They’re not making records about rapping but making records about the moment,” he states. He later states that “a great song doesn’t need great lyrics to be great.”

He brings up the topic of rappers and financial issues; he talks about his own struggles with fame and wealth early on, and goes on to say that “young rappers are preyed upon… Rappers need to look at what people support instead of what is trendy.”

Talib Kweli is rooted respectfully in Hip-Hop’s history, and has challenged the way people think and see the world around them, through his lyrics and spoken word. Lending his voice whether on the music stage or at a podium in Millersville University, he left the audience with one piece of advice: “Do not accept no as an answer.”