Political, conscious and ridiculously gifted are a few adjectives used to describe veteran MC Talib Kweli. And for almost two decades, he has continued to inspire masses of Hip-Hop heads who feel slightly nauseous whenever Nicki Minaj starts mumbling about “stupids hoes” and Lil’ Wayne says he wishes he could “f*** every girl in the world.
With his latest gift, “Prisoner of Conscious,” blessing us this month, Kweli took the time to speak to Huffington Post about his appearance in the documentary #ReGENERATION, typecasting in Hip-Hop, why he doesn’t vote and internet activists who forget that the revolution will not be televised — or webcast — it will be live.
“Being called a conscious rapper is quite a compliment,” says the Brooklyn native who dived into the game head first with friend Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), as one half of the groundbreaking duo Black Star. “It’s a great thing to be. But as an artist, my nature is to not be in a box. Once you attach such a limited description of what I do, it shuts off a whole audience of people. I work to make sure that when I’m being described, all of it is being described, as opposed to just one thing I do.
“…A lot of fans of mine think that hip hop’s ultimate responsibility is to critique social structures,” he continues. “Good art paints an accurate picture of what’s going on. But the responsibility of an artist is not to be a politician or have a message. The responsibility of an artist is to be honest with themselves.”
Kweli stands at the forefront of a generation of people who realize that the “right to vote” at its core is the right to choose — and sometimes that means choosing not to let slick “politrick-ans” take his vote for granted.
“…it makes no sense to vote without knowing who or what you’re voting for,” Kweli tells the Post. “Citizenship is participation. I’m someone who has placed myself directly at the center and at the heart of things that are going on in my community. As I get older my stance on voting has shifted from saying “I refuse to participate” to “How can we participate in a way that’s smarter and conducive to our community?” We have to raise candidates that are worthy of our vote.”
When discussing the “Me” generation of youth who are so plugged into technology, they often forget the real change requires more than “Liking” or “retweeting” something, Kweli reiterates that activism and social media are not synonymous. More bluntly: Kids today are talking loud, “but they ain’t saying nothin.'”
“..this generation wants to help out other people and wants to be involved in the world in a big way,” he speculates. “I think you saw that with the Stop Kony thing, where people felt like they could just click a button and automatically become an activist. People want to do that. People want to help. They just don’t know how. They don’t have the tools.
“You can’t just sit at a computer and be an activist, ” he schools the “Me” generation. “You have to get out there in the streets. I don’t care if you’re on Pinterest, I don’t care if you’re on Tumblr, I don’t care if you’re on Twitter, you have to physically get up there and get your body on the line and put your life on the line to express your thoughts and what you believe.”
Read the entire interview at HuffingtonPost.com.
While I understand, and agree, with Kweli’s larger points about authentic activism and citizenship, it can not be denied that social media has played an integral role in disseminating information that mainstream media refuses to cover. There is also something to be said for encouraging people to vote — even if it’s not for those candidates who expect it, and instead for those candidates who don’t fit into the two-party Pandora’s Box.
What do you think, Clutchettes: Does the answer to change lie in less internet activism and more foot soldiers? And what do we stand to gain by not voting?