Interview: Before Et Cultura, Talib Kweli gives love to Tampa hip-hop, talks new album, combating racism and more

"I like the one song we have together. Dynasty is a really dope artist."

click to enlarge Talib Kweli plays Gasparilla Music Festival at Kiley Gardens in Tampa, Florida on March 12, 2016. - Anthony Martino c/o Gasparilla Music Festival
Anthony Martino c/o Gasparilla Music Festival
Talib Kweli plays Gasparilla Music Festival at Kiley Gardens in Tampa, Florida on March 12, 2016.

Talib Kweli has returned to Twitter, and if you think that he’s going to back down after being locked out of the social network following a reported exchange of words with an outspoken Texas lawyer, then think again.

“Combatting racism is never tiring for me. Having to live in a racist world can be, though,” Kweli, 43, wrote to CL. “But even if it was, it would still be my duty to humanity to correct the lies that racists work overtime to tell. They never stop, so I can't stop either.”

Twitter locks Talib Kweli's account after exchange with Texas attorney See Editor's Note below

The revered NYC rapper is set to play St. Pete’s Et Cultura Interactive Music + Arts + Film festival on Saturday, and release a new album (Radio Silence) the day before. He'll also be in-store at Banana's Records in the afternoon.

Kweli took some time to talk to CL about his online escapades, journalists’ duty to hold Trump accountable and — yes — music, including Black Star, Hi-Tek and Tampa Bay’s very own Dynasty and DJ Sandman.

Read our full chat below, and get more information on Et Cultura via Call your local record store to see if it'll carry Radio Silence. Get info on Kweli's Saturday in-store performance at Banana's Records via Facebook.

Talib Kweli w/The Budos Band/The Sh-Booms
Sat., Nov. 18. Doors at 7 p.m.
Festival passes $50-$250.
Single venue tickets subject to availability on day of show.
State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.
More info:

You’re coming to play St. Pete — you killed your last festival set here in Tampa Bay — what does the band look like these days?
The band is fluid but it's always family. I will be performing with just a DJ in St Pete. 

And going back to that Black Star tour you did, people still talk about the after-show in Tampa where Yasin decided to ride out with you and DJ Sandman to your DJ set at Ol’ Dirty Sundays. What is that like for you to know how much cultural clout that one project (which is a shred of your output) has?
Black Star is a blessing and that night was really fun, really special. Black Star is not my highest-selling album but it’s the one that the fans ask about the most, proving that cultural currency is far more than record sales.

A lot of amazing things have happened in your career, but where does doing “Get By” at Carnegie Hall with Flea and Joan Baez rank? Is that like a weird-ass party, man? Better than the Rod Stewart, Lorne Michaels thing with Chappelle?
I grew up staring at Joan Baez album covers that my father had but I don't know her music. I am aware of her impact on rock, folk and pop music, though. She's a giant and a master of craft. I grew up as a fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and a fan of Flea as an actor. That moment ranks pretty high. Spending a weekend at Lorne Michaels’ crib was pretty dope as well, though. I am a lifelong SNL fan.

Why the heck can’t Desus Nice pronounce "Yasin"?

I think he was being facetious, he just grew up on Mos Def so Mos will always be Mos to him. Having to call him Yasiin may feel like innocence lost to a Mos fan like Desus.

Stretch Armstrong asked an interesting question on Twitter the other day, and I was wondering your thoughts on it. Which artists — and maybe in this case, active rappers — do you think we’ll still be listening to in 10 or 20 years?

Definitely Kendrick, Cole, Chance, Rapsody, people like that and probably others that younger people know more about than I do. Drake will always be considered classic. Artists like Future and Thugger will probably experience renaissance periods in later years, much like hitmakers like Ja Rule and Ashanti are experiencing now. Nostalgia is very powerful when it comes to music.

What slept-on active rappers do we need to be listening to?

NIKO IS, who is from Florida, and K'Valentine from Chicago.

Twitter — you’re kind of like David Crosby in that you actually respond to people. You answer a lot of haters; does that kind of effort get tiring? Is there any particular reply that you are really proud of?

Combatting racism is never tiring for me. Having to live in a racist world can be, though. But even if it was, it would still be my duty to humanity to correct the lies that racists work overtime to tell. They never stop, so i can't stop either.

I like your story about Seth Byrd, who is a plumber. I know NYC is super diverse, but you know every type of person, and the company you keep is a choice. How hard is it to earn a circle of friends that is so diverse?

My inner circle is the same people I grew up with in Brooklyn, not too many new people. While I may be more famous than most of them, that doesn't change the amount of respect we have for each other’s experience. Seth Byrd will probably travel with me to St Pete.

I just read your Medium piece, and I loved it, but I disagreed with your point about the media not holding Trump accountable for his lies. I feel so much of the media do just that day in and day out. Any comments?

Mentioning that Trump has a propensity for telling lies is not the same as holding him accountable for said lies. The moment Trump tells a lie at a press conference, every journalist, every question should stop until he is corrected publicly. That never occurs because journalists are too busy looking for soundbites to demand justice and accountability. These journalists don't even have each other’s backs. Trump has told numerous lies but nobody calls him a liar to his face, they do it from the safe space of a TV studio or in some blog he will never read. Meanwhile, senators were calling Obama a liar to his face on the Senate floor, literally yelling it at him. There is a different standard for a rich old white man.

DJ Sandman, a Tampa lifer, mentioned he still had an unreleased track with you and Dynasty (another Tampa emcee). How many unreleased tracks like that do you think you have floating around?

He does? I'd like to hear it. I don't remember it. I like the one song we have together. Dynasty is a really dope artist.

The world has its opinion, but which Talib do you enjoy more — the one with a beard or the one without a beard?

Ladies say beards are sexy, but for years I didn't wear one because finding a good barber on the road was tough. I’ve now figured out how to make it work while traveling, though.

Have you seen Gucci since the transformation? Do you miss belly Gucci?

Gucci's body doesn't concern me. I do like his growth as an artist, he's a great example for what a person can do when all odds are against them. I actually see Gucci a lot on the road. He is becoming quite the touring artist.

Brand new album, Radio Silence, coming Friday — with a two-year run-up, and it adds to a nice solo discography for you. Robert Glasper and Maurice Brown are on it, and so are Jay Electronica and Alchemist — do you think this will get those last two guys to finally put albums out?

Man, I have no idea. Alchemist has at least one solo album though, right? Plus Gangrene with Oh No is super dope.

I’m not asking about the Black Star album at all, but I am gonna ask about Hi-Tek, what’s up with him? Where is he?

Hi-Tek is great. I see him often, he is in Cincinnati raising a family. I'm pretty sure we will do a third Reflection Eternal project.

[Editor’s Note (Updated): The Texas attorney referenced above in "READ MORE" emailed CL to claim that our post first detailing the exchange between him and Talib Kweli was "false." He claims that Kweli initiated the feud and personally attacked him after a three-year-old tweet was posted by a different Twitter user. The lawyer, Jason L. Van Dyke, alleges that the old Tweets were taken out of context, and that Kweli’s corresponding tweets “encouraged his one million plus followers to physically confront me at both my home and my place of business.”]

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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