Conscious rapper keeps students up late

Greg Kupetz

The stereotypical artist uses a brush and a palette, but no matter the media Talib Kweli thinks the artist should paint a realistic picture. A good artist not only brings voice to the page, a good artist paints a solution said Talib Kweli.

Those were a few of the words the Brooklyn-born rapper had to share at his speech in the Student Center Ballroom Tuesday night. Talib Kweli spoke to roughly 700 people about hip hop, activism and how the two go hand in hand.

“Rarely do you see artists invest most of their time in activism… most of the time we entertain,” Talib Kweli said. “When I’m in the studio writing, I try to make sure the music I produce is responsible.”

Much to the disdain of the crowd, Talib Kweli did not perform any songs off his latest album “Beautiful Struggle,” but in consolation he rapped acapella along side local rapper, The Ohio Spokesman.

“Hip hop is not perfect, it’s not pretty all the time, but it’s beautiful,” Talib Kweli said. “You have to look at what the good is, the positive is, instead of the negative. It has given me the power to change someone’s life.”

In Talib Kweli’s eyes, hip hop is a tool, an alternative way of life for people who otherwise might succumb to the gangsta life style that is so prevalent in mainstream rap. Talib Kweli blames gangsta rap’s popularity on corporate conglomerates and the record industry placing priority on record sales, saying in his speech that people make music to fit into the machine.

“A lot of people don’t even know that a responsibility is bestowed upon them when they pick up a microphone,” Talib Kweli said. “The most hip hop thing you can do is be yourself. That’s the essence of hip hop. If I’m saying it and it’s not interesting — I’m speaking to a vacuum.”

It’s easier to sell something that has already been marketed, and consequently, Talib Kweli said rappers produce music that is similar to the music that the record company has already had previous success with. Talib Kweli’s awareness of the many issues affecting hip hop and the world is one of the main reasons for his success.

Since the release of “Black Star,” a critically acclaimed collaborative album he did in 1998 with childhood friend and fellow rapper Mos Def, Talib Kweli has been heralded as one of rap’s premier lyricists. Though none of Talib Kweli’s albums have ever gone platinum or gold, he supports his family doing what he loves.

Two years after the release of “Black Star”, Talib Kweli released another collaborative album, this time with Cincinnati native DJ Hi-Tek. “Reflection Eternal” was released in 2000 amidst a wave of rave reviews but failed to break into the mainstream.

Talib Kweli’s next release came in 2002 when he put forth his first solo album titled “Quality,” another album that was popular with critics but did not have the sales to match. The oldest son of two teachers, you could say Talib Kweli Greene was born to be a conscious rapper, as he is often labeled. Talib Kweli is translated into Arabic to mean “student of truth.”

“He touched on a lot of things,” said Khamrin Campbell, business marketing major. “He gave some insight into what’s going on in hip hop, how things evolved and changed.”

Talib Kweli ended the speech with a question and answer segment, directly followed by an autograph session.

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Greg Kupetz at [email protected]