storytext Talib Kweli is one of the biggest names in Black music today among the young people, and his album “Quality” is fire. I like hollering at the Brotha when he touches down in the Bay, which seems to be every few weeks, because he’s very down to earth and focused on the objective of perfecting his art, music, expanding his fan base, and making his efforts literally pay off. And he’s doing it.
He was recently in town with GangStarr, Common and Erykah Badu, meeting the public at autograph signings and performing in Frisco. If you want your children to be into music that can positively feed their thoughts, Talib Kweli is one of those artists.
This is part 1. Check out his game plan …
JR: How does it feel to be back in the Bay Area on tour?
Talib: It feels good. The Bay Area is like a second home for me. I always get a lot of love here.
JR: What do you think about this war and in what way can music play a part in educating the people?
Talib: Well, the Bay Area is an area that is known for its activism, and the artists here follow suit. You have artists like Goapele and Zion I on a local level who are doing everything that they can to speak out against the war effort.
I was at a protest that they had here a couple of weeks ago, and it was interesting to see different types of people and everybody coming out. As far as artists, I heard that the girl from the Dixie Chicks gave an apology for making an anti-Bush remark, but her remark reflected the state that most of the country is in. People feel bad or feel unpatriotic or feel all types of ways if they are speaking out against the war.
I know that most of the readership of the Bay View would not consider themselves patriots, and I wouldn’t consider myself a patriot either, but one of the most patriotic things that you can do is speak out against this war. If it’s about you loving America and everything, this is one of the worse things that has happened to America, you know, so I don’t think that she should’ve had to make that apology.
It’s tough. Artists used to be the voice of the people. Now they are more the voice of the corporations. You could see the difference in who is speaking up and who’s not.
JR: What do you hope that people get from your music?
Talib: I hope that they take something away from it that they can relate to. I try to be honest in my music and my expression, and I think that honesty in your art is what people relate to the most.
JR: I know that you’re in contact with Young Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. What do you think about the two assassination attempts that were made on his life recently?
Talib: I am in touch with Fred, but I don’t really know the details of where it happened exactly and (what) happened. Obviously it’s a sad situation. I mean, he’s been through a lot. He’s been through a lot of pain and hardship from the time that he was born (through) his jail time to now. The brotha deserves a rest but that’s what’s beautiful about the struggle that he keeps going in the face of all of that, cuz most of us ain’t dealing with the struggle on that level.
JR: How has this tour been treating you and how is your experience different from that first time?
Talib: It feels good. The brothas that I’m on tour with, Common and Gang Starr, represent the best of this culture, and I’m loving it. These are brothas who I grew up listening to, and just to be in their company, going from city to city doing sold-out shows, it shows that people really respond to the art.
People don’t respond to the marketing of these record companies. If you listen to the record companies or radio, you would think that Common, Kweli or Gang Starr don’t have a following. But we selling out everywhere we go. They are asking us for encores, and it’s a great thing.
JR: That’s dope. How has the artist relationship been like behind the scenes?
Talib: Yeah, it’s great. Everybody on the tour is somebody that I have built with, from Big Black, who’s a road manager for Gang Starr - he is one of the first people that I met in the industry. Common is like a brother to me. Premier, Guru … we all knew each other and would work together before the tour. So it’s just like a big party; we throw a big party.
JR: How does the female element work? I know that you got Erykah on the tour at least in the Bay. What element does she add behind the scenes?
Talib: Well, Erykah ain’t really on the tour. She’s in Common’s life, so every once in a while she will pop up. I got two background singers, Tiffany Mignon and Tracy Moore from the Jazzy Phatnasties, who’s cd is out now, and it’s a beautiful cd. I find that having women on the road and on stage with me and in my show just enhances everything that I do, and that’s why I always roll with them.
JR: How have you been received around the country now that you are solo of Hi-tek and solo of Mos Def?
Talib: It’s good. The single that I have, “Get By,” is getting the most response that I ever had from any song that I have put out, and I think that it is a testament to the touring and everything that I have been involved in. My whole career has been a progression
JR: So where do you hope that this tour hits people? What kind of different effect do you want this tour to make that you may not have made on the last tours?
Talib: This tour, I mean, is in support of Common, so I’m an opener along with Gang Starr. Really, whatever we could do to make the crowd hype for Common is what my job is. You know the gravy of it is I get more record sales, I get people more familiar with my music, I get to make money, I get to have fun traveling city to city, but my job is to support Common, you know what I’m saying, so I just try to do the best job of that.
JR: A lot of people think that a Hip Hop artist’s job is going on stage and that’s it. Can you just explain your schedule today so that they have a better understanding of what it takes for Talib Kweli to sell records?
Talib: Well, being on the road is hectic because you can’t guarantee anything. Like I know that people were upset because we weren’t at the in-store, but it’s like we had to get to the hotel and change, and we got there as soon as possible.
When you are going from city to city, you’re not settled. You come into contact with a lot of different energy, meeting a lot of people, and you can be thrown off balance, so you have to do everything in your power to maintain your balance. Make sure your diet is right,
Today I had an in-store. I’m also trying to get to Berkeley, you know. I collect records, and I am trying to find a record to use in my show, and some of the stores in Berkeley have some of the records that I got. So it’s important to me.
When the MCA people were setting up the radio stuff and the in-stores, I was like, make sure you take out time for me to take a nap, for me to get to Berkeley to get these records, for me to get good food so that my head would be right before the show. I don’t like to talk or do anything for like an hour before the show. The show is the bottom line to me. Everything is about the show. Everything else is secondary.
So if I could fit it in, I do. Some nights we have to get right off a plane or right off a bus and go right on the stage. It’s a labor of love. It’s hard work.
JR, 24,is a contributor from the SFBayview Newspaper