Entertainment / music

Hip Hop artist Talib Kweli sounds off on Africa and African musicians

by Nelima

About three weeks ago I went for a phenomenal concert featuring Lil’ Brother and Talib Kweli. After the show I tried to get a chance to talk to Talib to get his thoughts on his experience in Africa. Yes, whenever I go to a concert I always try to get the musicians to talk about Africa. Sometimes I am unsuccessful (like at the Nas concert) and other times I get lucky like with Talib. What I really wanted was an interview for Mshale, but he was leaving the next morning so after some chit chat I managed to get his email.  The next morning I sent him an email with some questions and because I was determined I kept resending the email until I got an answer. (It’s never worked with Oprah by the way). Well yippee yay! This morning I got my answers and I want to share them with you  🙂

Me: In 2003 you shot the video “Temperature Rising” with Les Nubians in South Africa and earlier this year you shot your video “Hostile Gospel Pt.1” in Nigeria. How was the experience? What was your before and after view of Africa?

Talib:  Going to Africa is an experience that has many facets and you will see different things depending on where you spend your time. That is not something we see growing up here. I have seen an Africa that resembles America, and I have seen one that looks like man has never been there. The vastness of the continent is overwhelming.

Me: Who would you say are your top 5 African musicians?

Talib:  I am not familiar with the scope of African music, but there are a few that have touched me. Babatunde Olatunji allowed me to perform with him at Medgar Evers College when I was seventeen. It was a great experience and led to my first magazine feature in Vibe. Fela Kuti has had a huge influence on my music and my son is named after him. Les Nubians are France based, but they brought me to Africa to film their video, so I have great love for them. Their first CD is one of my favorites as well. I have to show respect for Lucky Dube and his contributions to music, and Zap Mama for their work in spreading African sounds.

Me: You’ve been to West Africa and South Africa…. when are you going Eastwards?

Talib:  As soon as it makes sense.

Me: In the US African-American artists are always collaborating with each other on albums. Why haven’t there been many African-American and African collabos? 

Talib: There is a market for that kind of collaboration but it is untapped and those with the resources have nothing invested in Africa. When you see it, it is usually an ambitious African artist reaching out and not the other way around. Right now, travel to Africa is a labor of love for most Americans, not something they profit from, and Americans are motivated by profit.

Me: There seems to be a disconnection between Africans and African-Americans in the US. I remember hearing early in the campaign that Obama is “American-African” and not “African-American”. How do we reconnect?

Talib: African Americans are connected to Africa whether we like it or not. It is in our hearts and minds, our speech and our bodies. Any resistance to it is futile, it is too strong. Education is key. Our children must have African centered education so that they can walk tall in the rest of the world. That goes for any culture, not just ours.

Me: In August I saw an interview where you said you haven’t voted in a long time and weren’t convinced that any of the candidates were ‘really for the people’. Do you still feel the same way? 

Talib: I am in full support of Barack Obama.

Me: What can we expect from you in the near future?

Talib: I am releasing new music from my label this year, Blacksmith. Get Jean Grae and 9th Wonder’s Jeanius album, and Strong Arm Steady’s Can’t Let It Go on iTunes. Look out for my project Idle Warship with Res and Graph Nobel and Reflection Eternal with Hi Tek.

There you have it! I think it’s a lot more thoughtful than what I have been hearing about Africa from other artists.

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