Hip-hop artist speaks about social activism at WSU

Talib Kweli, hip-hop artist and social activist, spoke in the Shepherd Union ballrooms Tuesday afternoon.
(Photo by Eden Buxton) Talib Kweli, hip-hop artist and social activist, spoke in the Shepherd Union ballrooms on Tuesday afternoon.

Words echoed throughout the Shepherd Union ballrooms as Talib Kweli spoke about using hip-hop music as a social activism tool.

“(Kweli) is diverse, he’s accepting, and he has a powerful way of influencing his audience to be the same way he is . . . I’m mostly excited about what he has to say about it, but what I know, that he has to share, is that you should be open-minded . . . I’m not really sure about it, (but) I want to learn,” said Michael Diamond, a senior majoring in communications with an emphasis in marketing and the programming vice president at Weber State University.

Kweli has been rapping for 20 years, with his sixth solo album, “Prisoner of Conscious,” coming out this April. He said his inspiration for his music originates with his parents and his home city, New York City.

“He’s more conscious, he’s not mainstream . . . he’s a big believer in being a man of God, a conscious hip-hop artist, addressing issues and things like that, and I think that’s pretty cool,” said Jared Shumway, an undecided sophomore.

Kweli spoke of his upbringing and his start in his music career. He said he has worked with artists such as Mos Def, Kanye West and Jay-Z.

“I want them to have, you know, to make a personal connection . . . and not look at what I do,” Kweli said. “I’m not just talking about music, but just being successful in whatever it is as you want to do, as something as not unattainable, (but) something that’s real.”

During his speech, Kweli also spoke about how music is a big influence on the community. He said people have false ideas about hip-hop, such as the notion that hip-hop artists are just “tough guys,” but really they’re “poetic nerds.”

“When you see young black people who are able to change their circumstances and the circumstances in their world and turn it into something as organic as music and poetry, that is true black power,” Kweli said.

Kweli talked about his support of Nubian Heritage and how it greatly influenced his music. He also compared his music career to the life of a shark to his music career. A shark keeps moving forward in order to live. He said his music is like that, because he and his music are always moving to keep social activism in people’s minds.

“If I’m not moving forward, I’m not living,” Kweli said.

When it was time for the Q-and-A session, some people approached the microphones with questions about Kweli’s thoughts on the music industry. Landon Knox, who is not a student at WSU and heard about the event from his friends, asked Kweli about how he felt about the materialism in hip-hop music. Kweli said rappers use hip-hop to brag as a way to empower themselves and how they feel, that having a “love for the rhyme” is why rappers do it.

Kweli went on about how hip-hop has different ideas interpreted into the music. There is the idea of violence, clothes, cars and women, but Kweli said his music is more about keeping social activism alive.

“I’m a big fan of Talib Kweli,” said Charmbay Jones, a sophomore majoring in technical sales, after the speech. “I’ve seen him in different states. It’s amazing what he can do with a spoken word, how he’s so gifted.”