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Why Talib Kweli is Focused on his Fans

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Twenty-four years after their debut album, Black Star — the duo of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey — is back with its sophomore release, “No Fear Of Time.” Talib joined Trapital to discuss the long-awaited return album (which dropped in May) and why it was released exclusively on the paid-subscription podcast platform Luminary. Spurning traditional streaming platforms like Apple Music or Spotify was about serving its true fans, Talib told me during our interview.

 

The pair was already in business with Luminary, hosting an original podcast “The Midnight Miracle” alongside Dave Chappelle. The way Talib sees it, the group’s most dedicated fans — one’s that care about them on a personal level beyond just spitting bars — were already rocking with them on Luminary. And after a career that’s spanned four decades, Talib is more interested in engaging his core fanbase rather than reaching the masses. 

 

Disruptive art is on-brand for Black Star. Similarly, Yasiin’s latest solo album was exclusively distributed inside a 10-week art exhibit in Brooklyn. For Talib, he’s blended different musical genres and sounds his entire career. “As an artist, it’s my duty to try everything I can,” he told me on this episode. 

 

For a closer look at Talib’s creative and business approach, you’ll want to hear our interview in full. Here’s all our talking points during the episode:

 

[3:16] Black Star’s New Album “No Fear Of Time”

[4:10] Why The Album Released Exclusively On Luminary Podcast Network

[8:07] Why Talib Moved Away From Patreon

[10:37] Art Vs. Business

[14:11] What Talib Has Learned In Different Creative Pursuits 

[15:55] Yasiin Bey Makes Talib “Step Up”

[19:23] TikTok’s Influence On Modern-Day Music

[23:00] Why Talib Avoided Clubhouse 

[25:12] Talib Doesn’t Miss Twitter

[29:41] Speaking Out Against Online Trolls

[33:51] Putting Out Music On “Own Terms”

[35:24] Talib Did 200 Shows A Year For Two Decades

 

Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS

 

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

 

Guests: Talib Kweli, @talibkweli

 

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TRANSCRIPTION

 

[00:00:00] Talib Kweli: Most of my music is available for free on YouTube. On Kweliclub.com, you can get all my mixtapes for free. You can get the album Fuck the Money for free. My biggest song Get By, you could, if that shit came on in the store, you could Shazam it and listen to it on Shazam for free, you know what I’m saying?

[00:00:16] Talib Kweli: Like, it’s got 15 million views on YouTube. You could go listen to it on YouTube for free. You mean to tell me I can’t get $10 or $5 or $30 with a new Black Star album with all this free music you’re getting? What are we even talking about? You know what I’m saying? Like, how are you ignoring all of this, to complain about this?

[00:00:42] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. 

[00:01:03] Dan Runcie: Today’s guest is the one and only Talib Kweli. He is one half of Black Star which is back with its second album since their debut 24 years ago, 24 years. It’s crazy how long it’s been. But it was great to talk to him about why he chose to release it now and also why he chose to release it exclusively on Luminary.

[00:01:25] Dan Runcie: Luminary is a paid audio platform, specifically known for podcasting. So we talked about that decision, why it was important for him and Yasiin to release it on a platform where they already had a podcast and what that means for him moving forward. And what it ultimately focuses on is the quest for autonomy and control and independence in being able to reap the rewards that come from it.

[00:01:49] Dan Runcie: This is nothing new to Talib Kweli. He’s released music on his own website, Kweli Club. He’s used Patreon as well to release his music. So we talked about what the decision was like to release on Luminary and more broadly what this means for him as an artist. He’s someone that has toured a lot over the years.

[00:02:07] Dan Runcie: So we talked about what it’s been like since the pandemic. What it’s been like finding the right sound and themes given so much of the conscious rap that Black Star and Talib himself were known for over the years. And we talked about a whole bunch of other trends in the industry. Great conversation, really insightful.

[00:02:24] Dan Runcie: Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Here’s my chat with Talib Kweli. All right. So today we have the one and only Talib Kweli, one half a Black Star, which is back with its latest album, No Fear of Time. So the album’s been out for a little bit, man. How are you feeling? How do you feel about the response? 

[00:02:41] Talib Kweli: I feel grateful and blessed, and I’m happy that the fans have gotten a chance to hear it. I’ve been listening to it or iterations of it for a number of years now. And I’m just happy to have gotten it out. 

[00:02:53] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I bet. I think too, I’m glad that the fans are hearing it ’cause one of the big discussion points about the album, which stuck out to me, was how you chose to release it. And I give you so much respect for doing it on your terms and not necessarily following the main path because we all know that artists have their own autonomy and independence. Like, you don’t have to just do the standard thing. So credit to you on that. 

[00:03:16] Talib Kweli: Well, yeah, you know, all praises due to the most high and really, I give the credit to Yas he was the one that really stuck to his guns on that. You know, my music is widely available or many platforms, not all of it, you know, some, some things I have exclusive, but we’ve had offers as you can imagine all through the years to ways to put out the Black Star album in a more traditional way.

[00:03:37] Talib Kweli: Yasiin stuck to his guns on that. And by default, just me, me being in a group with him, I benefit from that. Because the situation absolutely was a beneficial situation to me and, to be frank with you, one of my most favorite situations I’ve been in business-wise in terms of my relationship with my art and how it gets out to people.

[00:03:59] Dan Runcie: That’s good. That’s good to hear because I know that you’ve done a few different things independently. You’ve released albums on your own website before, you’ve done Patreon. What made you choose Luminary this time? 

[00:04:10] Talib Kweli: Well, we were already in a very fruitful relationship with Luminary due to the fact that we had the podcast on Luminary with Dave Chappelle, the Midnight Miracle Podcast.

[00:04:19] Talib Kweli: And it was attractive to us, the idea that fans who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, fans that are already spending money with us, fans that are following us enough to know where we at, fans that are interested in our conversation, right? Fans that are interested in us as men, as human beings and not just like feed us, feed us, feed us art, feed us content, but fans that are really interested in what we think and how we see the world and how we see art. 

[00:04:50] Talib Kweli: Those fans, I feel like, that niche was either already on Luminary rocking with the Midnight Miracle or if they had heard about the Midnight Miracle, that would be exciting to them. And so just automatically it weeds out the people who are like, Nah, I’m not interested in you as a human being. I’m not interested in how you feed your family.

[00:05:11] Talib Kweli: I’m not interested in your, your thoughts on the state of the industry. I just like them bars and the beats. I just want to hear the music. But that’s not the fan I want, you know, and that’s not a fan. That’s pop music. Pop music is like a blanket, trying to blanket and cover everything and get every single ear.

[00:05:28] Talib Kweli: And I don’t need every single ear and I don’t need all eyes on me. I just want to rock with the people who want to rock with me. And that, that’s the first thing beyond the fact that, you know, the business of Luminary is, that we’re in is a fair arrangement. It’s not, you know, it’s not ownership.

[00:05:45] Talib Kweli: It’s just fair. It’s the antithesis of what happens with most of these streaming networks, most of these DSPs. So it’s, it’s just a, it’s a good situation. And it’s not, you know, the news was, was announced that Dave Chappelle at other people had been invested in Luminary. So it’s not just something where it’s like, we’re asking people to come to something that we personally don’t put our money where our mouth is, you know what I’m saying? 

[00:06:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Because that’s what I saw. I saw that Dave Chappelle was an investor. I assumed that maybe you and Yasiin were as well. And ’cause I know some people, I wondered, okay, well, if I was going to do $5 a month, is that $5 that I could just put directly in Talib’s pocket?

[00:06:25] Dan Runcie: But you’re like, Hey, we also want to support the people that have clearly been with us, paying for Midnight Miracles, paying for our content. So it’s not just about the monetary aspect. It’s about being able to share and celebrate with the people that have already been with you. 

[00:06:39] Talib Kweli: Yeah, exactly. And I can’t speak for Yasiin’s investment to what he do with his money. You know, that’s, that’s really his business. I really don’t know. But for me, I, I have Kweli Club, as you mentioned, and I’m very proud of Kweli Club, but people are not there. You know, I’ve never been on Bandcamp. I just started a page on Bandcamp this week for the first time because I’ve heard about Bandcamp.

[00:07:02] Talib Kweli: But in my mind, I’m like I could do that with Kweli Club. I could have my own Bandcamp. And Kweli Club is still rocking and is a unique experience to sell books there, there’s product and information and things you could get from me there that you can’t get no place else. But now you can also get my music, some of it on Bandcamp and the Black Star album is on Luminary. And I think I’m going to probably do some more things with Luminary. 

[00:07:23] Talib Kweli: It has all these other podcasts and it’s like, whether you’re into those podcasts or not, right? Like, you might not want to hear Trevor Noah, or Roxane Gay, or Russell Brand, or some of the other podcasts they have there, or the People’s Party, or Midnight Miracle. But you can’t say, well, we’re just asking you to pay for this album. You can’t say that ’cause that’s not accurate. What you’re paying for, you’re getting a lot more than an album. 

[00:07:47] Dan Runcie: I agree with that. And I think the distinction here, too, that I think about, I know you mentioned on your website, of course, you could do it there, but that’s not necessarily whereas many of the fans are, as you mentioned, how does this compare to Patreon? For instance, I know you’ve used that in the past to release art and release your work specifically.

[00:08:07] Talib Kweli: I respect the Patreon audience, and the Patreon people, and the people who started it. It’s a very good idea. That is very artist-centric. But for me personally, it was Patreon just like everything else is based on your level of engagement. It’s a social media platform, right? So the more you engage there, the better it’s going to be.

[00:08:25] Talib Kweli: And they got, what, the Discord. They’re plugged in LinkedIn with, and it’s just for me, we’re already engaging on other social media apps to then take that time. And I engage where I enjoy, right? I don’t do it just for business. Like, I’m talking about things I enjoy. And also that, because I enjoy the engagement, it’s also rewarding to me.

[00:08:45] Talib Kweli: It brings followers and listeners, whatever, but you just to add time to do it on Patreon, I didn’t, I couldn’t get into the engaging in the social media part of Patreon. And I feel like for me personally if you’re not going to, I feel like if I wanted to engage to the level of some of the other creators on Patreon, I probably would’ve done better there, but my interest never, never quite got to there.

[00:09:11] Talib Kweli: And so that’s what this is, there’s no disrespect to that platform. I just think it’s a personal taste or what you enjoy doing. And I see, I see people who do very well on Patreon. 

[00:09:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I feel like for you specifically, we are talking about being able to invest in a platform, not just with your money, but with your time as well.

[00:09:32] Dan Runcie: And if you’re going to get the most out of a platform, you got to put a lot into it. And you already had work in luminaries. So I feel like that connection was there for you. And this also makes me think back to when you had released your Gutter Rainbows album. This was back in 2011, and I feel like at least of what you had written at the time, this was a bit of a, a turning point for you because I think what we’re talking about is the autonomy, and the independence, and the impact of that, especially from an economic perspective where you’re like, you know, you put up your own money, you tripled your investment in a few months, and you’re like, even at the more commercially successful albums you had before that, you never saw something like that. And I feel like that shaped a lot of your experience and outlook forward.

[00:10:15] Talib Kweli: Yeah. And it’s even in 2022, it’s even more like that. I’m still learning, and growing, and bending, and shifting. And the space I’m in now is even a lot more independent than I was when Gutter Rainbows came out. Now it’s just like the industry’s completely broken down. Like, when Gutter Rainbows came out, it was like on the way to really, really breaking down.

[00:10:37] Talib Kweli: But now it’s completely broken down. It’s like the wild, wild west. And it’s like really about what you invest in yourself. It’s really about focusing on the business aspect of it, like where you completely leave the ego out of it. And that’s so difficult for a lot of artists because a lot of art can be, for better or for worse, ego-driven. And it can be, you know, people say that art is reciprocal. You want people to like your art, you put it out in the world, and you search around to see who’s feeling it. And that could really have an adverse effect on your ego and what your value system is, right?

[00:11:10] Talib Kweli: And, you know, me as an artist personally, I’ve spent money. I’ve invested in things that I knew I wasn’t going to see no return on, over and over and over again, just for the sake of the art, just for the sake of the culture. And I’m not just talking about my art. I’m talking about other artists on Javotti Media, you know, there’s things that I’ve invested in and I’m like, I don’t see a path to making a profit here unless by some stroke of luck or miracle, something, someone feels as strongly about this art as I do.

[00:11:39] Talib Kweli: And it gets a placement somewhere. Someone picks it up for a movie or something, like that’s possible, or use it in a commercial, stuff like that. But I mean, those are long shots. That’s not a guarantee. That’s not like a plan for success, unless you’re going into those situations where you’re, you’re knowing how to pitch those things and have those relationships, which I did not and do not, you know, so yeah.

[00:12:02] Talib Kweli: My thinking on it now is not that at all. Because I’ve done that. I’ve done the artist thing for so, so, so, so long, and I’m not really a businessman at all. I’m a businessman by default. I’m a businessman because I have to be, I love, I love this art so much. I love this culture so much. And in order to sustain myself, in order to live the life I want to live and to feed my family, offer this art I had to learn a certain degree of money management, time management, business management in order to just do what I do, but I don’t enjoy it.

[00:12:32] Talib Kweli: and this is why this conversation was in, in doing this podcast was interesting to me because I think it’s very important whether I enjoy it or not.

[00:12:41] Dan Runcie: I think that’s an important distinction, because I do think that we see artists now that clearly you could get the sense that music is an afterthought for the bag that they’re trying to get. But at the end of the day, I still believe that most of the people in this want to do it primarily because they love the art and they are much more aligned with you where it’s like, they had to do this because they didn’t want to get, you know, taken advantage of by the system.

[00:13:05] Dan Runcie: They didn’t want to not have things work out in their favor. So by default, you have to have some, you know, cursory level of knowing what works and what doesn’t. And as you kind of mentioned earlier, that bar has increased a lot since Gutter Rainbows, that has increased a lot since so many of these things.

[00:13:22] Dan Runcie: So the landscape forces you to do that, or else you may likely get taken advantage of unless things work out luckily in your favor.

[00:13:31] Dan Runcie: I think, too, for you, something else you mentioned with this, just thinking about needing to reach so many fans, if you are relying on this major system, so much of that relies on taking you away from the core people that are really rocking with you, because if you’re trying to reach the masses and you’re trying to do what a major label may want you to do to try to reach the masses.

[00:13:53] Dan Runcie: then you may have, they may want you to either shift your sound. They may want you to try to do all these things, which further take away from the autonomy and control that you clearly want to be able to have. So I get the sense that this more recent stage of your career has likely been more freeing from that perspective.

[00:14:11] Talib Kweli: Yeah, I mean, as an artist, I really, really, really want to try everything. I’ve definitely tried in my music to make music, to take aspects of what I do, who I am as an anti-racist person, as a pro-black person, as a person who likes a certain type of what they call underground hip-hop and take those sensibilities and stretch them, expand them and find global audiences.

[00:14:34] Talib Kweli: And I’ve worked with artists all over the world from different genres. I’ve tried many different styles. I’ve sang. I’ve done double time. I’ve done, you know, I’ve round over trap beats. I’ve done it at all. I’ve tried every single thing because as an artist, not only is that my right, feel like it’s my duty to try everything I can.

[00:14:52] Talib Kweli: But in that trying, what I’ve learned is is that the more I try different things, the more I start to lean towards being comfortable in being the best at what I do, finding that thing that what it is that’s unique about me and finding that. And I’ve tried that through my career.

[00:15:09] Talib Kweli: People, there’s albums of songs, things that people are, like, maybe be like, I don’t like when Talib did this, or I don’t like when Talib did that. And some of that, some of it worked and some of it didn’t. There’s some of it that I love that people hate. And some of it that people hate that I love, I don’t even know if I just said the same thing twice, but you know what I’m getting at.

[00:15:27] Talib Kweli: But in this state, business-wise and creative-wise, I’m closer to the vest and more about what is it that I do best. And try to put that on display. 

[00:15:40] Dan Runcie: Right. And that last piece you talked about in terms of doing things you loved that the fans didn’t like, or the fans not doing things you liked, but then you actually liked it yourself. Did any of that influence how you and Yasiin went about this latest album? 

[00:15:55] Talib Kweli: Well, the good thing about Yasiin is that he try, he does try as much as I do. He tries different styles. Absolutely. I’ve heard him rap and sing on all different types of things. But what really helps shape the Black Star sound is I’m the steward of the beats and the administration.

[00:16:12] Talib Kweli: Like, I’m going out and finding the beats, and looking for producers, and booking studios. I’m doing all that. But what Yasiin is doing is he’s trying to get closer to God in his lyrics. You know, all his albums, all his projects start with Bismillah and all his bars and where he is trying to go lyrically is always about a higher level of self. And trying to get closer to God, whatever that is for you. And so it makes me step up, frankly, and it doesn’t make me just step up, but it makes me because let’s not get it fucked up. Like I don’t slouch from my, on my other projects. You know what I’m saying? So it’s not just about stepping up, but it’s also about the focus.

[00:16:54] Talib Kweli: It’s just different. And it’s like that when I worked with Styles P, it was a different type of focus. When I worked with 9th Wonder in them, it was a different type of focus. When I work with Hi-Tek, it was a different type of focus and, you know, even on my solo albums, even the producers I work with, whether it was DJ Scratch or Kanye, will.i.am, whoever. Like, wherever I go with that person is is pulling some out of me. And what Yasiin pulls out of me is wanting to be closer to God. 

[00:17:19] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I definitely get the sense of that. And even listening to y’all two conversations, hearing it from the album and even just, you know, his own evolution with religion, I always got the sense that, for you two, like spirituality and the importance of that was always going to have a theme through its music.

[00:17:36] Dan Runcie: And it’s been interesting to see how, like, that piece from a tonality has evolved over time as well. The debut album you had, there were so many things that were timely to that era. And I think in this album, too, we’re kind of seeing so much of it because I think that there’s a lot of things, whether it’s about, you know, black liberation, freedom that I think were relevant then, relevant now. However, it looks different in a way that I feel like you all are able to keep a lot of the same themes, but have more of a modern shift to it, which I don’t think necessarily applies to a lot of people that are still creating music from the late nineties and putting it out today.

[00:18:13] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I hear you. And I think that was very intentional on our part. This album was formed over a lot of conversation and, you know, it’s 24 years since the last project in them, you know, there was a lot of attention to detail. A lot of attention to detail, but also with the idea that it’s got to sound loose. It’s got to sound organic, and raw, and loose. It can’t sound overproduced. 

[00:18:37] Dan Runcie: Right. And it has to be timely as well in a way that it can both stand, you know, the test of time. But it also, you know, whether you’re talking about millennials and how people are relating to particular things, it has to relate to that piece.

[00:18:51] Dan Runcie: And I feel like that resonated with me, at least, for being able to hear things as well. But there was something else you said even earlier in this conversation that I was thinking about in terms of doing things and you always willing to try things, whether it’s going with EDM, working with different producers. I’m curious, how does that shift with looking at different formats as well to put out music? Because I know that there’s this ongoing debate right now about artists and whether or not they should be forced to use TikTok or not, and whether or not people like to use TikTok. How do you feel about that?

[00:19:23] Talib Kweli: Yeah, I was watching the Billboard Awards and that’s when I first, I knew in the abstract that everything was moving towards TikTok, right? But watching the Billboard Awards, it hit me when they were introducing every single artist that was popular. Most of them I hadn’t heard of or heard their song, but every single thing they were announcing was like, this is how it performed at TikTok. And for how I grew up, that was the radio.

[00:19:43] Talib Kweli: And so I was like, now we’re an era where the radio is not on his way to be obsolete, but completely obsolete. And let me be clear. I don’t mean radio as a concept. I mean, commercialized pop radio and that system. Because clearly what you’re doing is radio, you know, what I’m doing with People’s Party and in Midnight Miracle is radio. So that’s driving, right?

[00:20:04] Talib Kweli: I feel like we’re in almost in a golden age of radio, but as far as, like, with the music business, man, oh, man. Yeah, TikTok is, I just posted something today from, or that Earn Your Leisure poster about Isaac Hayes Jr., for Fanbase, talking about the algorithms and Instagram, and how, when it first started, you could gain 300,000 followers, very quickly, a million followers very quickly, but then once they had video and once they had ads, well, now you could be a network and now, the advertisers are going to come to you instead of coming to Instagram. So now they’ve made it so, that’s why they shadowbanned people and limit content. I have a million people following me. If I post something, maybe 5,000 people will see it or like it, I don’t know who, how many people see it.

[00:20:44] Talib Kweli: I have to look at the insights, but I’m definitely not reaching everybody who I’m supposed to reach. And they’ll be like, oh, well you could, if you pay us, you know what I’m saying? And so it’s just interesting to see how with TikTok, which is Chinese-based if I’m not mistaken, I don’t think they’re doing that. I think they’re allowing the content to reach who it’s going to reach, or I might be mistaken about that. I don’t know. 

[00:21:05] Dan Runcie: I think that’s going to shift with TikTok as well though, because I think we kind of saw the early stage where you could put up a song and, you know, like a Megan Thee Stallion song could blow up or whoever song could blow up.

[00:21:16] Dan Runcie: But I think now they got over a billion people using it every day. I think we’re going to see or using it every month rather. I think you’re going to see the same type of shift happen there, too, eventually. 

[00:21:27] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I mean, I post on TikTok and no one follows me on TikTok. It’s like 4,000 people following me on TikTok. But again, it’s the same thing with the Patreon thing. I’m not there, right? I’m not engaging with the people. I’m not clicking on videos, and scrolling through it, and, like, commenting. And I’m not doing anything. I’m just posting things, trying to get some engagement because people are there. I’m putting things up. But that’s not really where my fans are looking for me yet at this point.

[00:21:54] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. And especially with the demo that you’re reaching, and they’re not looking at you to go do some TikTok dance or something like that, right? 

[00:22:01] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I saw The Game doing a TikTok dance. I mean, I hope that that’s what he really wanted to do, you know what I’m saying? I hope that he’s like, yo, I think that dance is hot, and I’m going to do that dance. Instead of like, damn I got to get on TikTok and do a dance, you know what I’m saying? 

[00:22:15] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I do think even that piece of it’s going to change too, though, because kind of like we saw on YouTube, right? Like people avoided YouTube for a while because they’re, okay, I’m not going to go out here and go dance like Soulja Boy and try to do some viral video, but it eventually matured. And I think we’re going to see the same with TikTok where, yeah, you don’t have to do some dance that could fit in a vertical video, but you’re going to see, you know, folks that you know, are trying to reach your demo, doing whatever the version is that’s relatable to them. So it’ll take time. In some ways, I feel like it’s already happening. Yeah.

[00:22:47] Dan Runcie: For you, I do think about even, you know, we’re talking about spending time on different platforms. Did you dip into Clubhouse, especially when, you know, the hype on Clubhouse was big or? 

[00:23:00] Talib Kweli: Oh no. They kicked me off at twitter for, they didn’t like the way I was talking on Twitter. If they can’t take what I write in text, they damn sure ain’t going to be able to take my voice, you know what I’m saying? Clubhouse got popping right when I got kicked off of Twitter, and so I started getting like, you know, you got to invite people, right?

[00:23:17] Talib Kweli: So I started getting like, literally I would get 15, 20 invites a day of people like, you got to join. People would take time out of their day to call me, be like, yo, you should be at Clubhouse. It’s perfect for you. And because of that, I was like, there’s no way I’m ever going on Clubhouse. because nah, like me talking to these things? Nah. That would go left quick. 

[00:23:41] Dan Runcie: The wild thing is I do think that people can get away with saying wilder shit on audio than they can on written text on Twitter, at least from some of the stuff I’ve heard. 

[00:23:51] Talib Kweli: Yeah. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right, which is why I don’t need to be on it. That’s exactly right because here’s the thing, here’s the problem with me, right? I’m a very intersectional person, you know, I’m not out here, slut-shaming. I’m not here calling women bitches and hoes. I’m not out here using the R word or using the F word. I don’t do none of that. I’m not a bigot. I don’t use bigoted language.

[00:24:14] Talib Kweli: But I’m very good with words. And so with the shit that I write in text, and I’m very blunt and direct. And so the shit I write in text, I feel like it triggers a lot of people in terms of, like, because I’m like, Hmm, nah. And I’m just very blunt and direct. If you come at me wrong, I can be insulting without lowering to this vibration of bigotry, right? Or, that’s not true. Every man has fucking bigotry issues, but I try my best. I feel like I try more than most of the people I converse with, right? And so, that me, that shit just comes off as snark, bro, and people just be upset, ’cause they feel like you making ’em look stupid and they get very upset and very tight. And that’s what it would be for me at Clubhouse. I would say some slick shit and people would get very upset very quick. 

[00:25:04] Dan Runcie: No, I hear that. I hear you on that. It’s been, what, almost two years since you’ve been off Twitter. 

[00:25:09] Talib Kweli: Yeah, it’s been since 2020. 

[00:25:11] Dan Runcie: Okay. Do you miss it? 

[00:25:12] Talib Kweli: No, I don’t. It was time. I had been on Twitter for 10 years. I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed my time there though. But, you know, I don’t miss it because I honestly, for real, in my heart of hearts, I really, truly, truly, truly do not want to be someplace where I’m not wanted. Like, I stand by that. Like, mm-hmm. Like, if they don’t want me there, I don’t have no desire to be there.

[00:25:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah. You’re not missing much. I’ll be honest with you. As someone who spends too much time on that place, you’re not missing much. 

[00:25:42] Talib Kweli: Yeah. What I do realize is that being on Twitter, as much as I was on Twitter and then not on Twitter, is that the things that I was talking to people about on Twitter, and these things, let’s not get it twisted, right?

[00:25:53] Talib Kweli: These are things that are shifting the culture. And these are things that are shaping the world. The things I was talking about in particular, I wasn’t talking about frivolous shit. I wasn’t talking about rat beefs or whatever I was talking about, you know, real things. The things I was talking about on Twitter became mainstream news years later, things that I was ringing a bell on, and a lot of us were ringing a bell on and people were just not paying attention.

[00:26:14] Talib Kweli: But what I realized was a lot of the things that were elevated in my mind to a level of super I importance that we have to talk about this, people who are not on Twitter, not thinking about none of that shit, not talking about none of it. And so that’s why a lot of the stuff that I was going through on Twitter, a lot of stuff that became so ugly and toxic, part of it that I wasn’t understanding was when I was like, yo, how is this happening? How’s the community letting this happen? Because the community really didn’t care, really didn’t care. And I’m not saying that to disparage anybody on Twitter. I don’t want to seem like now, now, cause I’m not on Twitter, like, haha, oh, y’all whack up being on Twitter. I’m not saying that because Twitter is still a very important tool.

[00:26:57] Talib Kweli: That’s why all the conversation about Elon Musk and all that stuff is so prevalent and so important. There are people who still use Twitter in amazing ways. Absolutely. But I agree with you. Twitter is a cesspool and it was a cesspool when I was there. It’s just a lot clearer not being there and a lot more understanding for why people didn’t give a shit about it, you know, now looking at the engagement. I’m glad I was there. I learned a lot. I gained a lot. It was a gift and a curse, but mostly a gift for me. But yeah, it was time for me to go and they decided that before I did, but they were correct. 

[00:27:31] Dan Runcie: And I think with that, too, it’s a bit of that double standard that I think public figures like yourself are kind of put towards, right? People can, you know, reply at you and talk all sorts of shit to you and take what you say out of context. But if you go back at them, then they’re going to say, okay, he’s putting his fan base back at me. He’s doing this. 

[00:27:47] Talib Kweli: Yeah, that’s such an important part of this conversation, right? And I want to be clear here because like I said, I’m an intersectional person. So, you know, I don’t want to be the guy that he’s here to protect black women. And, well, what about men, you know what I’m saying? Because as a man, I’m a member of a privileged, oppressor group, I’ll go as far to say. But there’s a phrase, black men are often the white men of the black community, right? Now that phrase is funny, is hyperbolic, right, but it’s based in some truth. And I understand why people would say that. When women be like all men are dogs. Yeah. I get it. I don’t personally feel like I’m a dog. I’ve done some dog shit before, but I don’t personally look at myself like that. I don’t feel offended by that, but just because black men can and often are the white men of the black community, if we’re going to be hyperbolic, right? 

[00:28:37] Talib Kweli: Doesn’t mean that we’re not still part of a marginalized group of people. It doesn’t mean that we’re not still under attack. Doesn’t mean that we’re not still faced with many threats and that we don’t still need protection, ’cause we absolutely do. And the conversation in our community has to be about the black community, has to be about women, and children, and men, and gay people, and disabled people, and rich people, and poor people, has to be about all of us.

[00:29:07] Talib Kweli: If we’re talking about the conversation around systemic oppression. And so the idea that because I’ve earned an extra layer of privilege, ’cause I’m already born with some privileges. I’m already born in America, born as a man, but because I’ve mastered my craft, worked hard to master my craft. And it’s earned me a degree of fame, and a degree of celebrity, and a degree of money that a lot of people can’t earn or not in a position to earn resource and all that, because of that, I’m now supposed to allow people to disrespect, not just me, but my family and particularly the women in my family?

[00:29:41] Talib Kweli: And I’m not allowed to be a human being and want to respond and have a response? The things that people say about celebrity is that they’re disconnecting, that they don’t engage. I don’t view myself as celebrity. I view myself as an artist. Well, as an artist, I’m going to talk to the people and for better or for worse, you know? What I realize now is that me talking to the people has put a target on my back because a lot of these people don’t even deal with these people. They just block people, look and call ’em trolls.

[00:30:10] Talib Kweli: They don’t even talk to anybody. And I’m not built that way. And I understand the logic behind it, but I also, there’s also a method to my madness as well. And so the idea, I push back hard against the idea that you have a pass to undervalue my humanity or to not treat me like a human being because you haven’t earned what I’ve earned in terms of cultural currency, you know, because you choose to be anonymous, or because you are not famous, or because you are not, I don’t know, whatever, like, I can’t abide by that. I can’t. I find myself inclined to speak out against that idea that we lack humanity, or we are less human, or we deserve to be treated less than because we’re famous, or because we have a million followers, or whatever the metric is, I don’t know. 

[00:31:00] Dan Runcie: And I think this point brings the conversation full circle, right? Because so many people, when you and Yasiin decided to release the album on your terms, they’re like, oh, well, you’re not going to put it on streaming. You’re missing out, that you shouldn’t be doing this. And y’all are like, This is our music. You can’t tell us what to do. Like, this is our craft. And I think it just goes back to the entitlement of people feeling like they have the ability to dictate what you do when you are the one that is in control of what you do. 

[00:31:31] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I mean, that’s, I’m glad you brought that up ’cause for me, those conversations are difficult, right? Because I’m an advocate for artists. I’m a fan. So when we talk about fans, right, we’re not talking about, I’m not separate from that group. When you see me post on Instagram videos of me with Bun B, and I’m jumping up and down just like any fan would. I’m not playing it cool, you know what I’m saying? Like, so I’m a fan as well. And me as a fan, I’m a fan of these artists as human beings. That’s why I wrote that article In Defense Of Ms. Hill ‘ cause it’s like, if I’m a fan of her music, then yo sis, take your time. If you don’t feel like showing up at the show tonight, Hey, I guess we got to eat that one tonight.

[00:32:09] Talib Kweli: But you’re still Ms. Hill, you’re a human being. You’re not some product that rolls out on stage. You press a button, it just goes. If you’re having a human issue, you’re a human being that’s having a human issue. Let us know when you got some new shit and I’ll be happy to support. I likely, if you give me an option, I’ll overpay for it.

[00:32:25] Talib Kweli: How about that? Because I can’t quantify what you’ve given me, and that’s honestly how I feel. So it’s hard for me to relate to these fans, be like, I want, first of all, that’s even the wrong language to be using with me, talking about what you want, you know what I’m saying? If you want the Black Star, I’m going to make the Black Star out.

[00:32:41] Talib Kweli: And if you can’t, then meet us halfway, bro, and come to where I’m at, because guess what? The first Black Star album, Universal says they own and they don’t own it. We’ve never signed a contract for that album. So they’ve been profiting off of that. So if you bought that or listen to streaming, you’ve been paying some rich white company that has nothing to do with Black Star.

[00:33:01] Talib Kweli: Every song in that album is available on YouTube. Most of my music is available for free on YouTube. On Kweliclub.com, you could get all my mixtapes for free. You could get the album Fuck the Money for free. My biggest song Get By, you could, if that shit came on in the store, you could Shazam it and listen to it on Shazam for free, you know what I’m saying? Like, it’s got 15 million views on YouTube. You could go listen to it on YouTube for free. You mean to tell me I can’t get $10 or $5 or $30 with a new Black Star album, with all this free music you getting? What are we even talking about? You know what I’m saying? Like, how are you ignoring all of this, to complain about this?

[00:33:39] Dan Runcie: Right. It’s like, you’ve had so much up to this point. It’s not like you haven’t had anything, you know, like, if you want to be able to put this one out on your terms, then yeah, here it is. You know, you don’t owe anyone anything. 

[00:33:51] Talib Kweli: Yeah. I find it hard to relate to the people who don’t understand that, which is why, if you notice, when I’ve been on social media and people ask about it, my response has been, well, this album is not for you.

[00:34:00] Talib Kweli: And maybe I should stop doing that because that’s such a triggering thing to say to people. And I’ve been saying it a lot ’cause I mean it. But then it starts these long arguments with me. Fuck you and you’re mean to the fans. It’s like, nah, my fans are listening to the album. Now whether or not they like it or not, that’s subjective. 

[00:34:18] Talib Kweli: My fans were listening to Midnight Miracle. And if they weren’t, if you are a fan, who’s watching this podcast right now and you didn’t know about Midnight Miracle, go listen to it because you’re a fan. You want to hear what we got, you want it. If you are a fan of us, be a fan of us.

[00:34:33] Talib Kweli: I don’t believe to separate the artists from the music. I don’t do that. I feel like that’s a cop-out. Let me not say that because, let me just speak for myself. You can’t do that with me because I am what my music is. All them lies they be telling about me, it doesn’t go with my music. It doesn’t go with my actions.

[00:34:51] Talib Kweli: It doesn’t go with the truth. i I am what I say in these bars. I stand on that. I’m very proud of that. 

[00:34:57] Dan Runcie: Right. And I think the other piece of this, too, that I think has now just become the norm in music is that so many artists are predispositioned to be like, okay, lemme just put my music out on streaming.

[00:35:07] Dan Runcie: Treat it like it’s marketing, get it out there. And then let me make my money when I go on tour. But the way that you all have it set up, I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. You can get the money from the art, and you could also get the money, you know, if you and Yasiin choose to do a tour together.

[00:35:24] Talib Kweli: I mean, I was touring, I was touring before the pandemic. I was doing 200 shows a year. So that’s more than anybody, you know, like I was, that model right there. Think about it. I got 16 albums out, doing 200 shows a year. So that’s what, ‘you’re describing my life. That’s exactly what I was doing. And I don’t do that anymore, and I don’t plan on doing it again.

[00:35:43] Talib Kweli: But when I look at pictures or videos for myself from that time, I don’t even recognize that person. Like, how was I doing that? That’s not sustainable. I was on some super human shit. I don’t know what, I don’t know how I was doing this. I don’t know how I was dropping music and touring at that pace.

[00:35:57] Talib Kweli: And still, like, doing activist work, and supporting my family, and just being me, and being on Twitter, you know what I’m saying? Like, all of it, I was doing all of it and I don’t know how I was doing all that. 

[00:36:06] Dan Runcie: How many shows do you think you’ll go back to? If 200 was a lot, what do you think is the ideal range?

[00:36:13] Talib Kweli: As you’re saying, as I’m saying this to you, I’m thinking about it. I’m like, damn. I got a lot of shows coming up, but I can’t let it get back to 200 a year. 

[00:36:20] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I mean, ’cause at that rate, yeah, I mean, you’re talking, I mean, like more than half of the days of the year you are out there putting it all out there. I mean, yeah.

[00:36:29] Talib Kweli: 20 years straight, I did that for 20 years.

[00:36:31] Dan Runcie: And it’s wild. It’s wild. I mean, I think at least the position that you’re potentially in now, you can earn more money from the actual music you’re putting out. You clearly have, you know, a bit buy-in with a platform that has other people that are invested in it as well.

[00:36:45] Dan Runcie: And then with any other business interest that you may have, like, this is something to build up on, right? It’s clearly, like, recurring revenue that you have and if you and Luminary continue to grow, then you can also tour and do any of that other stuff on your own terms. 

[00:36:59] Talib Kweli: Absolutely. Yeah. 

[00:37:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I feel that’s the way to go with it. Well, Talib, this has been a great conversation. I feel like we covered a bunch just in terms of the importance of autonomy, importance of independence, and where you see things going. But for the people that are listening and they do want to follow, I’m sure they already know if they’re listening, but where should they go to check for the latest of what you got going on?

[00:37:18] Talib Kweli: Man, just follow me on Instagram. If they don’t kick me off Instagram, ’cause they be threatening to kick me off Instagram too. They don’t like when I talk about racism on Instagram. So for as long as I’ll be on Instagram, follow me there. I just joined Fanbase today. So I’m looking forward to exploring Fanbase.

[00:37:32] Talib Kweli: But I mean, you got to come see me in the flesh or don’t actually, you know, like just, I don’t know. Like, I’ve been out in the flesh a a lot, man. I don’t know. I don’t know. Just holler at me when you see me, and I’ll try to make my presence known. For the near foreseeable future, I’m definitely going to be at Luminary. So I definitely encourage people to subscribe to Luminary. 

[00:37:52] Dan Runcie: Sounds good. And I appreciate the Fanbase shout out too. Shout out to Isaac Hayes III. I had him on the podcast couple of months ago. Love what he’s building. 

[00:37:59] Talib Kweli: Yeah, me too. I’ve been knowing about it for a minute, but now as I’m starting to, like, really assess what’s valuable to me, I’m, like, starting to look at things a little different, and I’m like, yeah, Fanbase. We can’t keep talking about it, right? At some point we got support. 

[00:38:14] Dan Runcie: Right. Exactly. We know that this is the culture that pushes it forward. It’s our culture. I mean, have the people that are about it to be the ones that actually own it in, we can see what happens.

[00:38:22] Talib Kweli: Yeah. Word up. 

[00:38:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah. All right, man. Appreciate you. 

[00:38:26] Talib Kweli: All right. Peace. 

[00:38:27] Dan Runcie: All right, man. Thanks. 

[00:38:29] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share with a friend, copy the link, text it to a friend posted in your group chat, post it in your slack groups, wherever you and your people talk. Spread the word. That’s how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcasts, go ahead, rate the podcast, give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you like the podcast that helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.

 

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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