Talib Kweli still has a lot to say. After over two decades making hip-hop music, the admittedly outspoken, Brooklyn-born hip-hop artist is making his voice heard through his records, his activism, and his Twitter account. As he prepares to unveil his eighth solo album Radio Silence this Friday, November 17th, he’s aware that it’s harder to get “mainstream” attention for his music, but knows he’s built a solid following adept at seeking him out and hearing what he has to say.
A particularly prolific artist over the last 20 years, Talib Kweli Greene has delivered over a dozen projects during his career, comprised of his solo albums, the classic Black Star album with kindred spirit Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey, a pair of albums as a member of Reflection Eternal (in partnership with Hi-Tek), and collaborative albums with producers 9th Wonder and Madlib. Radio Silence isn’t even the first project he’s released in 2017; earlier this year, he dropped the extremely dope EP The Seven with fellow NYC veteran Styles P.
Radio Silence is another solid entry into his discography, a thoughtful album that often relies on live instrumentation in the production department. He works with a wide array of producers, including The Alchemist, Ohno, Kaytranada, Robert Glasper, Quincy Tones, and J Lbs. The album features contributions from past collaborators like Jay Electronica to new musical sensations like Anderson .Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid to mainstream stalwarts like Rick Ross and Waka Flocka to the L.A. underground pioneer/legend Myka 9 of Freestyle Fellowship fame. It’s being released on Kweli’s own imprint, Javotti Media, distributed through Duck Down Records, and sold through Kweliclub.com, a website dedicated to his music and associated acts and projects.
Kweli traverses a variety of topics on the 11-track Radio Silence. He drops knowledge with Rick Ross on “Heads Up, Eyes Open,” gets lit with Waka Flocka on “Chips,” and does his love song thing with “Let It Roll.” Then there’s “She’s My Hero,” a gut-wrenching song dedicated to Bresha Meadows, which provides a detailed account of the alleged abuse that the then 15-year-old girl sustained at the hands of her father, before shooting and killing him. It’s tough and often intellectually challenging music, which is always needed.
Kweli recently took the time to talk with me and shared his thoughts on his new album, his children’s musical talents, partying in the White House with the Obamas, and dealing with its current occupant.
Jesse Ducker: So what’s the science behind the album’s title, Radio Silence?
Talib Kweli: I’ve spent my whole career being very competitive within the music industry, and a few years ago I made a conscious decision to focus more on building an industry around myself rather than participate in the music industry. There’s a lot that goes into competing with artists that are on the radio that are trendy right now. You have to go around and spend a lot of money and shake all the DJs’ hands and do all this political stuff, and I’m just at the point in my career, I’ve built enough culture consciously where my fans know where to find me and they come to me. The idea behind Radio Silence is I’m making music I want to make without being at all worried about status in the industry. It’s like essentially not being worried about what gets played on the radio. The radio could be silent; my career will be fine.
JD: Seems like you didn’t have problems getting collaborators who do get radio play these days. Both Rick Ross and Waka Flocka appear on the album.
TK: I mean there is certainly a fraternity amongst artists who respect the culture. People can say what they want. There’s a lot of critique in “real hip-hop” circles about artists like Rick Ross and Waka Flocka, but even if you don’t like their music, they like my music. They listen to me, and they like real hip-hop. Waka Flocka and Rick Ross make music that works very well in a strip club, but they also really love the authentic true hip-hop that hip-hop purists worship.
JD: How has your relationship with Rick Ross and Waka Flocka developed?
TK: I didn’t have a tough time hooking up with either one of them. Waka Flocka and I met at Hot 97 Summer Jam. Then I ran into him at a Vegas nightclub and we partied together, and then we promised we would do a record together. He gave me his manager’s phone number. I sent him a record. He sent me back a verse within a week. Same with Rick Ross. Rick Ross contacted me to be on mixtape that he was doing last year. I met him in Miami at a nightclub years ago when he had “Hustlin’” out. He came up to me and he was a huge Black Star fan. We’ve kept in contact, but we had never worked together and he asked me to be on this mixtape and I used that as an opportunity to ask him if he wanted to do a song with me. And again, I sent him a song, and he sent me back a verse immediately.
JD: You also work with Myka 9 from Freestyle Fellowship on this album. How did that come about?
TK: When I was working at [Nkiru Books] when I was 19 years old, before a record deal was even in the cards, I met Myka 9 because he moved to Brooklyn to work on his solo record. I was a huge fan of Freestyle Fellowship. I might have been one of the only Brooklyn fans of Freestyle Fellowship back then. A guy who I was actually living with at the time ran into Myka 9 at a bodega and said, “My roommate is a huge fan and would love to meet you,” and Myka came over to my house. And he actually moved in that summer. I don’t know how…divine intervention, I guess. He was only there for a couple of months, and he ended up moving someplace else. But we always have been really, really good friends, and this is not the first record we’ve worked on together. Twenty years ago we worked on music together, we just never did anything professionally. We never put anything out, so Myka has been my friend since before I had a record deal and he just happened to be at my house a few months ago and hanging out and I was like, “Yo, jump on this record.”
JD: Is he rapping? Singing on it? Because I know he does both.
TK: Yeah. He does a little bit of singing on it, but it’s an incredible verse. If you know anything about Myka 9, he’s like a standard bearer, and he delivers that Myka 9 shit. That heat.
JD: He’s one of the best ever to do it, in my opinion.
TK: Absolutely. I consider him a teacher. I consider him a mentor because I met him at a point in my career when he already had a record deal and was flying back and forth and was touring. I hadn’t done any of that. I learned a lot from him.
JD: What’s your favorite Myka 9 song or verse that he’s done?
TK: “Park Bench People” [from Freestyle Fellowship’s 1993 album Innercity Griots]. That’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard in my life. That song fucked me up. That song made me feel like, “What am I doing with my life? How could this be this dope?”
JD: What inspired you to record the song “She’s My Hero”?
TK: I get inspired by the music. Oh No is a great producer. And that track feels innocent and violent at the same time, because the track is like a set of a vocal sample and a jazz sample, but then it’s punctuated by hip-hop vocals from songs that dealt with violence. When I was writing for the track, Bresha Meadows’ story popped in my head, and that’s a story that I felt like didn’t make mainstream news. But people who live in poor communities, people who have dealt with domestic violence, people who have dealt with a corrupt justice system can all relate to that story and it’s an important story to tell, regardless of which side you fall on it.
Some of the father’s relatives got mad at me and started tweeting me when I dropped the song a couple months ago because they felt like I was unfairly painting their relative as an abuser. They were like, “You weren’t there. You don’t know all the facts.” In the song I was very careful to only speak on what was reported in the press. Obviously, I’m biased a little bit and I’ve injected my opinion in the song, but I try not to report anything other than the facts that were presented in court, but I felt like her story was important. And just on a personal level, my daughter is 18 years old and she resembles that young woman. Like physically.
JD: Have you interacted with the mother’s side of the family or Bresha herself?
TK: They actually reached out when they heard the song, and I’ve been trying to organize going to visit her. The next time I get to Ohio, I’m going to try to do that.
JD: The production roster is pretty varied for Radio Silence. How do you pick out the beats for your albums?
TK: I pick beats depending on the mood. My man Tunji Balogun, he’s a guy who’s been at A&R Interscope for years. When I was on Warner Brothers he was like an intern. But beyond me liking what I like, that guy is very much influential in putting me in touch with newer, younger producers who are talented enough to get on my album and rock with some of the older, more experienced producers. Particularly, for my album Gravitas, I worked with a lot of newer producers and Tunji put me in touch with a lot of them. Mr. Carmack, Abjo, Lord Quest, Kaytranada, those are all producers who I worked with because Tunji put me in touch with them.
JD: This is the second release you put out this year. You dropped The Seven earlier with Styles P, which is also really dope. Were you recording both albums at the same time?
TK: I’ve been working on Radio Silence for a couple years now. Radio Silence I started working on right as I finished the Indy 500 project, and I’ve been taking my time with it. “She’s My Hero” was recorded last November, but I started recording “Heads Up, Eyes Open” two years ago. We dropped “Let It Roll” a year ago on my SoundCloud.
Styles P and I were gearing up for a tour, and it was his idea that if we were going to do a tour we should do an album, so that’s an album that we recorded and knocked out within a month. I was actually gearing up to release Radio Silence this time last year, but when I had the opportunity to tour with such a great artist like Styles and then he came with the idea of doing an album, I put Radio Silence on the back burner.
JD: Was there a major difference in the way that you were approaching the material in both cases?
TK: Recording an album with Styles P created a new challenge for me. I’m used to the new challenges of working with other artists ‘cause you have to consider what they would like and you gotta work together. I tried to work on tracks for The Seven album as if I was putting myself in the mind state of Styles P. That album, stuff is very different. On The Seven there’s straight boom bap, no real singing hooks. There’s one quasi-singing hook, but there’s not anybody belting. There’s not a lot of extra live instrumentation, which I think was great. That project needed that.
For my Radio Silence album, I spread my wings a little bit and I’m using my experience, not just as an emcee, but as a musician. At this stage in my career, I tour with a band often. I’m doing a show with Flea next week at Carnegie Hall. I work with live instruments so much that what I challenge myself to do on Radio Silence is, how can I keep it to the hip hop aesthetic that people come to me for, but also spread my wings and have live instrumentation? There are a lot of strings, a lot of horns, stuff like that on this new album. Whether or not people receive it as dope as I think it is, that remains to be seen. But that’s definitely the difference.
JD: Are you about to go on another tour?
TK: I tour all the time. I tour more than any rapper. There’s a tour coming up. I think February is my next tour. I did a tour of Europe in the beginning of the summer, and then I did the tour with Styles that winter. I’m not currently on tour, but I live on the road.
JD: You enjoy being on the road?
TK: You know what? I do. I enjoy rapping for a living. I’m very blessed to be able to do it.
JD: You’ve spent roughly over half your life recording music. When you were 19, and you were building with Myka 9, did you see that 20 years down the road, you were going to have a career with over a dozen albums and projects?
TK: Absolutely. I didn’t see any other possibility. When I was 14 or 15 I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. But by the time I was 19, I was like “Yeah. I’m going to be rapping for the rest of my life.”
JD: What do feel like you still want to accomplish with your music?
TK: You know, I still don’t feel like I’ve done my best. I don’t even know what that would feel like, to be like “That’s it. I did it.” I love it, but it’s still my career. I gotta pay the bills and I still gotta feed the fam. I want to get to the point where it’s paying for itself to where I only do it when and how I want to do it. I’m closer to that now. I made that decision a few years ago. But I want to be even closer.
JD: What steps do you think you can take to kind of get to that point?
TK: Control. It’s all about control. If I have control over the music, I can do what I want with it. I’ve put out classics, and I’m working on getting control of all that old music I put out back in the days that everyone loves, and then I’ll gain complete control. I have control of the newer stuff.
But the music business has changed. The fans don’t buy the music in droves like they did back in the days when I first came out. If I can control the music, if all the traffic is flowing back to me, then I can decide when and how I want to tour, when and how I want to release stuff. Look, I’ve done a lot of love songs. What if I were to put together an album of just quality love songs and sell that? That’ll feed the fam. There are a lot of songs that you consider revolutionary songs. I could just put together a Kweli revolutionary compilation. That’s the type of stuff I’m interested in doing.
JD: What are your thoughts on how music consumption has changed in the last 20 years? When you came in, people were buying your 12” record. Now not only is physical media “dead,” but no one buys MP3s anymore; it’s all streaming.
TK: It’s a gift and a curse. The gift is that it levels the playing field in that it’s no longer this prerequisite of “You must be supported by a corporation before I take you seriously as a musician.” When Mos Def and I first came into the business, if you didn’t sell Gold on your first album, your career might be in jeopardy. If you weren’t on a major label and didn’t have BET and MTV play, people were like, “I don’t care about what you have to say.”
This new generation with the advantage of the internet and social media, they’ve done away with that. The artists that they like are the people that they discover on their own, the people who make names for themselves on YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud without the corporations. Sure, the corporations buy in and us older corny people, we hear the music once the corporations buy in.
Most people who are not involved in the culture, they hear about Cardi B once she has the hit record, but they don’t see the story before. I mean, she might not be the best example ‘cause she was also on Love & Hip Hop, but there are a lot of artists who are just famous now. Chance The Rapper might be a better example. He wasn’t on Love & Hip Hop, didn’t have any label support or corporate support. We know him doing Kit-Kat commercials now, but it’s all from his own work.
JD: So what’s the curse?
TK: The curse is people don’t value art. People don’t see the value in buying art or supporting artists. People are entitled and think that they deserve to get everything for free, and people don’t respect the art.
Artists have always dealt with the “shut up and sing!” mentality: “Don’t give your opinion, you’re here to just entertain us.” Back in the days people used to say “I buy your music, therefore I get to tell you how to be.” Now people just say that they’re fans ‘cause they saw a video for free on YouTube and they’re like “I’m a fan, therefore I have some say over what you do.” Like, nah bro. You haven’t invested shit. And even if you had invested shit, you still don’t get to tell me nothing.
I deal with it a lot because I’m an outspoken artist. I feel like I deal with that type of mentality more than the average artist, but it’s even worse now because at least back then they could at least produce a CD or something that they bought before they have this shitty opinion that because I bought your music, I bought you. Now they feel like they bought me and they ain’t even buy the shit.
JD: If they’re listening to rap music and not expecting artists to have an opinion, they’re probably listening to the wrong type of music.
TK: That’s the quickest way to tell somebody’s a culture vulture: when they claim to love hip-hop, but they hate the stew that created hip-hop.
JD: You mentioned your daughter earlier. Is she a fan of your music?
TK: Yeah. More importantly though, I’m a fan of her music and her brother’s music. My kids make incredible music. I don’t even know where they get it from.
JD: Do they rap? Sing?
TK: Both. And my daughter makes beats, raps and sings. But my son, he makes beats, raps, sings and plays piano and drums. He’s very good. They’re like me, 2.0 and 3.0 and 4.0 and 5.0.
JD: Do you see them trying to put out something or release an album eventually down the road?
TK: They’re part of a newer generation where the idea of music releases and getting a deal and the containers where you receive music, it is completely different to them. So it’s like when I speak to them about it, they’re more interested in fleshing out their craft and experimenting with music and posting songs on the internet for free. They actively say “I don’t want a record deal,” which is different from how I grew up where we were all like “Please! Sign us!”
JD: If they’re interested in building their craft, that’s a good thing. They probably get that from you, you know?
TK: I’m a working class artist. I’m rich adjacent. I’m fame adjacent, so they’ve seen a lot of rich famous shit, but I’m still out here in Brooklyn. I’m a celebrity, so I have privilege and I travel for work and I get to do things that a lot of people don’t get to do. But they see the realities in how I live. So they have a very realistic understanding of what it means to be a working musician. It’s not like the glamorized Love & Hip Hop version, where it’s always lit and it’s always turned up and it’s always drama. That’s not my life.
JD: So what are they listening to?
TK: I enjoy watching them discover older music. My children actually live in an apartment next door to mine and I can hear them listening to music often, and there’s times when I’ll just walk the certain wall that we share together and I hear them playing old school music. My daughter’s thing is to tell me about something that she’s discovered on the internet, and sometimes I know about it. Often I don’t. She’s often putting me onto new music.
JD: When you’ve walked by and you’ve heard them playing music, what’s put the biggest smile on your face, like “Wow! I can’t believe they discovered that?”
TK: A couple of days ago my son was playing old school break beats, like “Apache” and stuff like that, but he plays piano too. I was hearing him listening to these break beats, and then he would try to play them on piano.
JD: So, to switch things up a bit, how many times have you been to the White House before all this crazy shit went down?
TK: Three times. The first occasion was President Obama had a meeting with his favorite rappers, and I say his favorite rappers because it clearly was the prerequisite. It was a group of artists. We all knew each other, but the only thing we had in common besides being rappers, was that we were the rappers that Obama liked. And he had us on for a minute, a meeting about criminal justice reform. He was very interested in his legacy being criminal justice reform and he was gearing up to release a bunch of prisoners, and he was also trying to get people interested in his mentoring programs. So he was asking us as rap artists to help him with that, especially on social networks.
The next time was Obama’s birthday party in August, and I brought my grandmother who was mad at me because I didn’t vote for Obama the second time. So to make it up to her, I brought her. And the last time was the Obamas’ White House leaving party, right before Trump came in. I went and I took my mom who was mad that I had taken my grandmother to the previous event.
JD: What was your favorite time going there?
TK: Going with my mom was fun because it was a party. It was a party! Getting drunk with Wale. Me and Don Cheadle talking about what we was gonna steal out the White House and J.J. Abrams going around leaving notes under people’s desks for Trump staff. And they had Nile Rodgers perform and J. Cole. There’s some stuff that I can’t share until a few years from now. It was a good party.
But I would have to say taking my grandmother was the best, because she was 86 years old at the time and in a wheelchair. I’m pushing my grandmother around in a wheelchair, and because she was like an older, well-dressed black lady at the White House, everyone assumed that she was some sort of famous civil rights person, and so she got carte blanche. I’m way more famous than my grandmother, but people were acting like she was the famous one, to the point where Michelle Obama’s mom formed a kinship with her.
So anytime anyone in the Obama family saw my grandmother, we just got access to everything. I spent a lot of time sitting with the Obamas because they were just so amused by my grandmother. And I have a picture on my Instagram if you look back. I think it’s August of last year. There are no pictures of Obama’s birthday party because they didn’t allow pictures. There’s one picture when Obama met my grandmother. I had already told him about my grandmother, so when he met her, before he said hi to me he said “Kweli, is this the Obama momma you were telling me about?”, and he went and got a camera and he took a picture with my grandmother. That’s the one picture he took all night.
JD: There’s no good way to change subjects, but with the current occupant of the White House, things are a mess. On your Twitter you certainly remain very active talking about a lot of the injustices and things going on right now. Is it ever hard to wrap your brain around it? It seems like there’s something horrible happening every day these days.
TK: He finds a way to top himself every day.
JD: I feel like things were worse now than they were back in January. Is it ever difficult for you to be like, “Damn. What am I supposed to do if it just keeps on getting worse this week compared to last week?”
TK: The frustrating thing for me is that, as a student of history, you realize that whenever fascism has crept up, it’s because the general society is living a privileged life of convenience, where they want to be polite about things rather than deal with things.
You ever see these videos on the internet? It’ll be some old white lady at Walmart or something screaming at some immigrant. What’s interesting about those videos is no one says shit. It’s always some old white lady screaming at some immigrant and someone’s taping it and people are standing around not saying anything. They look visibly uncomfortable and disgusted, because obviously it’s an uncomfortable disgusting situation. But they’re not motivated to act because we’re taught to be polite over being for justice. We put peace before justice. We put convenience before justice. We put politeness before justice, and the people who stand up against injustice are told to “Sit down and be quiet because you’re making things uncomfortable and inconvenient for me.”
And so the most frustrating part about Trump is that there are no conspiracy theories that have put Trump in office. It was plain as fucking day. The man’s first statement was, “Mexicans are rapists.” That was in his campaign announcement. He said that, and he went on to be exactly who we thought he was. On his campaign trail, he retweeted Neo-Nazi accounts 75 times. I didn’t get that from HuffPost or Salon. I got that from Forbes. Forbes is not a left-wing publication. It’s not a left-wing bias dissent. Donald Trump supported and depended on the support of Neo-Nazis for his campaign. Now, because I’m on social media a lot, particularly Twitter, I have an inside track. Because I’m vocal about these issues, on what these white supremacist communities are doing. I’ve become a lightning rod for it, and the ideologues will come to my page. I don’t have to go looking for it. They’ll come and spew it at me.
The things that we’re seeing now, the Charlottesville thing? I was saying two years ago, “these Nazis are on the march and on the rise.” I hesitated to call Donald Trump a Nazi or fascist because I’m not into hyperbole. It’s an accurate critique to say that if you call everybody a Nazi, then when the people who are really Nazis come, it’s gonna be easier for them. We can’t just go around just calling people Nazis ‘cause we disagree with them. But when people are talking about genetics and how white people are smarter because of IQ and white genocide is real and we need to be more proud of the West because the West is more civilized, that’s straight from the Nazi playbook. “Jews will not control us. Jews will not replace us.” All that.
And I will concede that a vast amount of them don’t realize they’re Nazis or they’re spewing Nazi stuff. That’s what it is. They don’t realize they’re spewing Nazi propaganda ‘cause they’re too stupid and too self-absorbed to realize that that’s what they’re doing. But make no mistake, that’s what they’re doing.
It’s frustrating to me that during the campaign, all this “fake news” was being spread about Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her e-mails and everyone was telling me, and other people were fighting. I said “Be quiet. Stop engaging the trolls. Ignore the trolls.” And now a year later, we’re looking at our mainstream news doing stories every night about how it’s a fact that Russia and other agents plotted to put false information out there. They did it because they knew Americans were gonna ignore it. They knew that our society is based on complacency and politeness. They looked at the American political spectrum, and they said “You know what? We can just tell lies.” And they have a name for it. They call it post-truth. These white supremacists and these Nazis and these Ben Shapiro types and these Paul Watson types, these are people who don’t care about whether or not the things they are saying are true. They care about winning. And that’s a problem. Have you seen the movie Arrival?
JD: Yeah, with Amy Adams?
TK: Yeah. I love Amy Adams. That’s like my crush. Beyond Amy Adams just being the shit, that movie is the shit and that director [Denis Villeneuve] is the shit, there are two main takeaways from that movie. One is that the way that you learn language and the language you speak changes the way you think. So if you’re speaking in an alt-right language like “cucks” and “SJWs,” it changes the way you think. Also, the takeaway is if you’re communicating in a way where you’re playing a game where you have to win, then ultimately that’s going to lead to violence. Because if you remember that movie, the Chinese people were playing a game of chess and they couldn’t figure out if the aliens were saying weapon was a tool or tool is a weapon, because if they’re trying to win, then you’re trying to destroy.
Our political discourse shouldn’t be about winners or losers. The critique of the mainstream media from the right-wingers right now is, “Well, you predicted that Trump was gonna lose, so therefore I can’t trust you.” Well, motherfucker, the news is not supposed to tell the future! The news is supposed to tell you what happened. So, yeah, they got a prediction wrong based on polls. Polls are nonsense anyway. Yeah, that’s an accurate critique. They got a prediction wrong, but that doesn’t make it “fake news.”
You’re relying on information that you can’t depend on, and that’s a fair critique of the Left. A fair critique is that the Left got stat happy and relied on their own. The left media definitely assumed that Hillary Clinton had the power to win, and they made a lot of assumptions. A lot of assumptions were made, but you don’t find CNN and MSNBC telling lies. They certainly put out a lot of goofy shit. But even if they get caught lying, they retract it and that’s why they remain peer-reviewed and respectable. Whereas you have right-wing sources, the main ones, Breitbart, Alex Jones, Paul Watson, Ben Shapiro, who straight lie and never correct anything.
JD: So what would you say to some people out there who are like, “Look. I want to go out and do something about this. I want to be active. I want to try to change things from the way they are right now.” What do you recommend?
TK: First thing I would say is for people to not participate in the discourse until they listen. Go online and follow and support and uplift the voices of people who are activists and people who stand up for social justice before Trump became President, because there are a lot of them out there.
The Right is trying to make social justice into a bad thing, a bad word. That’s the rise of fascism: when the idea that compassion and caring about social justice are bad things, that diversity is somehow bad. So if you’re truly interested in social justice, follow, support and uplift the voices. Try not to speak on things that you haven’t put in the work on and done the research for, and that’s how to become a real ally to people who are fighting for the cause. Once you become an ally, show your solidarity and inform yourself, then yeah maybe start speaking on this. But if you’re going to speak on it, try to use sources that lack bias or have a minimum amount of bias.
It’s almost impossible to find an unbiased source in a political discussion. You’re not going to find an unbiased source. CNN, New York Times, Washington Post. Those are the most respected outlets, but those sources have a left-wing bias. They’re not as biased as Buzzfeed, but there’s bias there. Try to use alternative media, I would say and fact check across the board. Even though the Washington Post, L.A. Times and New York Times are definitely more left-wing, politically, if all three of them have a story, you can take it to the bank that the facts of that story are accurate.
JD: So do you think there’s a chance that this is on the way to being over? I mean that Trump isn’t going to be President in four years. Are you pessimistic or optimistic about that?
TK: I gotta be realistic. I am also someone who was naïve. I have a certain level of privilege because as a working musician, I travel to places where I get to curate my audience. I get to only be around people that I like. I don’t have to get up and get on a train and commute with people I don’t like. I don’t have to sit in a cubicle next to someone whose political views are against mine. A lot of people have to, and so because I don’t have to do that, I was naïve and I thought Trump had no shot.
I did Desus & Mero last year on election night, and I went in like “Oh, yeah!” I woke up that morning like “Yes! We’re going to have the first female President.” By the time I did the show, I was like “Okay, I need to reevaluate my life ‘cause I got this one wrong.” And I’m not often wrong.
So to answer your question, my hope is that Trump has, at most, four years. But we have a bureaucracy, I don’t see him being impeached. I don’t see our government, I don’t see our Congress and our constituents as having the balls or even having the wherewithal or the tools to even get this man outta here. I feel like if we had the tools to remove Trump, we would have been able to do it by now. I could see him doing his four years. My hope is that the Democrats come with a candidate who can beat him. I say “the Democrats” not because I believe in a two-party system, but I’m a realist. In a perfect world, we would have a lot of different political parties and anybody could come up. In a perfect world, the race would be between like Barack Obama and like DeRay Mckesson and the film director Ava DuVernay and Common would be running. And they’d be running as Independents, but that’s not gonna happen. Whoever’s gonna beat Trump is gonna be a Democrat. Until we dismantle the Electoral College, until we get rid of money in politics, it is going to be Democrat versus Republican for President.
JD: Do you think Common has any interest in running for President?
TK: Nah. I just drew his name out as someone who I agree with politically and who people love.
JD: OK, last question, and one we do our best to ask in all of our interviews. What are your five favorite albums of all time?
TK: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is probably my all-time favorite. Jungle Brothers’ Done By the Forces of Nature, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, Main Source’s Breaking Atoms, and Nas’ Illmatic.
Talib Kweli’s new album ‘Radio Silence’ arrives in stores this Friday, November 17th
SEE Talib Kweli on tour | Dates