Talib Kweli Says Hate For Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Is Misguided

Exclusive: Talib Kweli says Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are "your heroes and you don't even know it."

Talib Kweli, who recently released Gravitas, also went on tour with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in 2013. Throughout that tour, Kweli was able to connect with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, artists he says he respects. 

"Macklemore is an incredible artist," Kweli says in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. "He draws people in in a way that a lot of artists can't. And Ryan Lewis recognized that. And they did an album that resonated with people. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are gonna get hated on because they're so big. They're bigger than everything right now, but the way they did it was so organic, that if you know how it happened, even if you're not a fan of them, you can't hate on them.

"Everything that people say people should do, rather than deal with big corporations, these guys did," Kweli continues. "So it's ironic people hating on them as sort of the symbol of corporate music business excess. That's what people see them as who are ignorant. But they're the opposite of that. They're your heroes and you don't even know it. Whether or not you like 'Thrift Shop,' whether or not you like 'Same Love,' is irrelevant. Look at the business model. Look at what they've done for independent artists." 

Talib Kweli Says He's Learning From Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Talib Kweli's touring experience alongside Macklemore & Ryan Lewis introduced him to different ways of viewing the music business, the rapper says. 

"I'm learning," Kweli says. "I came in the business when this didn't exist. When I came in the business, you had to be on a label. That was the only chance for success and Rawkus figured out a loophole. Rawkus figured out a way to place something that seemed indie on a major label level. So even though we seemed indie, we were competing with the majors. You would turn on BET and you would see me and Mos Def. So Rawkus figured out a way. And I've been able to capitalize on their initial business plan to continue my career.

"But the business has shifted so much," Kweli continues. "People always ask me what I could teach new artists. New artists teach me all the time. I learn so much from new artists that I work with. Macklemore [came] up after me, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis [got] together to show me a new way to do it." 

Talib Kweli Says Major Label Reps Want Their Artists On Independent Tours

During the interview, Kweli also spoke about a moment that opened his eyes to a chance in the industry, a moment which took place during his tour with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

"I've been on a lot of tours out there," Kweli, who released Gravitas in 2013, says. "A lot of tours with artists that I knew personally. But Macklemore and Ryan Lewis brought me and Big K.R.I.T. No one else was thinking about bringing me and Big K.R.I.T. This tour is the only tour that is selling out. It's the only tour that's selling out every venue that we get to...But it was a state we got to, I forget the state, where this label guy I used to work with is at the show. I'm like, 'What are you doing here?' He's like, 'Oh I'm here with my artist.' I'm like, 'Okay, you working or you just chilling?' He's like, 'We were trying to get our artist from the label on this bill, but there seems to be some confusion. You know how that go.' And in my mind, I'm thinking, 'No. I don't know how that go because my shit is straight. I know I'm supposed to be here. I don't know what you talking about.' But it's amazing to me that the label guy was trying to get his artists on the indie tour." 

RELATED: Macklemore Says Hip Hop Will Be "Heated" If He Wins Best Rap Album Grammy

72 Comments

  • jmoan78

    Black Star, Train of Thought and Quality were better than The Heist and 99% of the other crab that's out now.

  • Carrie Knight

    til I saw the receipt 4 $6347 , I have faith that my sister was actualy bringing home money part time on there computar. . there sisters neighbour started doing this 4 less than 1 year and a short time ago paid for the mortgage on there place and bourt Aston Martin DB5 . see this... www.Tec80.Com in the last round, showing Calicoe the big picture, still got me fucked up. This shit is gon be must see t.v.

  • Anonymous

    Wackmore is complete trash, and he made that song about faggots to get attention. Sneaky mother fucker using fags to his advantage. Trash.

  • Make me a sandwich

    I personally thought Thriftshop was a parody by a decent amateur rapper that went viral, I didn't know it was an actual single for the charts so when the plaques started rolling in I was glad that at least somebody thought up a new gimmick besides pretending to be a rich dopeboy, but I ain't fuckin with it I just respect the hustle.

  • Anonymous

    CAN SOME PLS TELL KWELI TO TAKE THE WHITE BOY DICK'S OUTTA HIS MOUTH. GAAADDAMMN, EVERY INTERVIEW HE FINDS AWAY TO MENTION THIS KID. THATS WHY THE KID POPPIN, COZ U RAP NICCAS BE SAYING HIS NAME TOO MUCH. SELL URSELF,SPEAK ONLY ABOUT URSELF. THIS WHITE BOY SHIT IS TOO OLD.

    • Anonymous

      `EVERY INTERVIEW HE FINDS AWAY TO MENTION THIS KID. if the biggest rapper of the last 2 years took your bum ass out on tour when he didnt have to you would be biggin him up in every interview you did too

  • detroit slim

    I don't have hate for these guys. The problem is that they make radio friendly-commercial pop music. That's the shit I dont like.

  • Notheity

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  • Leviathan McKraken

    Talib ain't foolin anyone. He should use his ethos in a better way... Who's hating on Macklemore? If he's so successful (which he is), then why is Talib Kweli trying to sell "us" (let's see how many of ya'll catch that) Macklemore's legitimacy in Hip Hop? If you wanna respect an artist's independent hustle without the major record labels, look no further than TECH N9NE. Dude is constantly on the road grindin! These industry cats (and yes... Talib Kweli is one of 'em) can feed us Macklemore all day long, but that doesn't mean that we have to eat from that plate.

  • Ken Junior (EA Streetwear)

    Interesting perspective from Talib. I can dig it..... Follow Endless Ambition Streetwear. Urban wear for those who grind nonstop and want more out of life. IG: @endlessambition_streetwear @kingstutter Twitter: @Gwillisjr89 @EA_StreetWear @Kongo4488 Blog: eastreetwear.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    Niglets are mad because we own Rap music.

  • Anonymous

    Kweli's right. Even if you don't like Macklemore's music, you should at least respect his business model. He had one of the biggest Hip Hop albums of the year, and he did it independently. That's the type of shot Hip Hop needs in the mainstream.

  • Robert

    Talib Kweli totally is in denial. When he first came out, the rap grammy was long in existence. How many has he won? Zero. Macklemore came on the scene, one album that is crazy mainstream (and yes, I know, he's "underground" for what its worth, and already had a career, blah blah blah) and he gets to the top of the heap. He's got a name but the academy won't give Talib the time of day, and he is overlooking that. His prerogative, I guess.

    • BP

      you talkin out your ass nigga Talib chose his lane, he's not given the time of day by the academy because he made it that way. if he was that thirsty for a grammy, he definitely had the tools needed to, say, sell out and make it. he's stayed in his lane for a reason, cause that ain't been on his mind

  • Anonymous

    The key is having the ability and luck to craft hit songs. Macklemore has that knack, but a lot will be riding on the next album.

  • Adrian

    I just don't think he's a good rapper. I don't care that he's white, anything like that, I have him a real chance and I just don't enjoy him. I don't think he's corny though, I just don't like him.

  • POIUYTRZA

    Macklemore is the least talented artist of our generation

    • Anonymous

      you cant be serious. migos, chief keef, gucci mane, waka flocka, meek mill, riff raff, the list goes on and on

  • Yeezy-Ffan

    Hey, I'm white and I don't listen to all the "hood" rappers and I personally think Macklemore is garbage. It has nothing to do with race or anything of that matter, it has to do with talent.

  • Anonymous

    we don't care about macklemore and his shitty lyrics

  • DAMIAN

    even macklemore himself knows hip hop don't fuck with him... he said it when he said gkmc SHOULD win or hip hop will be heated.

    • Anonymous

      that dont mean hip-hop dont fuck with him it just means he knows k-dot has the better album... and lotta of hip-hop cats fuck with him. french montana got him on his new album. schoolboy done songs with him. talib and KRIT fuck with him to name a few!

  • azert

    don't hate him, jsut thought the heist was a solid 3/10...

  • friberg

    Cacklemore and gyan lewis should quit, they're making hip hop looks stupid

  • Ahreid

    been listening to hip hop music since 94.. can confirm macklemore is not hip hop

  • EMINEM

    like hip hop magazines are saying, he didn't deserve to be nominated at the grammy, hes bad and corny

  • Anonymous

    Macklemore could take anyone he wanted out on tour and they chose Kweli and Big K.R.I.T. thats all you need to know about him,.

  • i piss on queers

    Macklemore is a fucking faggot!! Fuck fags

  • Anonymous

    If I was an Indie artist like Talib Kweli I would say the same shit so that I could be considered a friendly ni99er by the gay guys platinum fan base. Bashing gays is career suicide, embracing gays boosts your career.

  • A Person

    While I don't hate Macklemore and do respect him, his fans generally don't rep hip hop like they should. (I know some who like him that rep hip hop well, but a lot are just bleh, they don't know shit about the history of hip hop)

    • C

      I think this is completely dependent on how long they've been listening to Macklemore. I know plenty of hip-hop junkies who have been repping him since "Language". I mean, you had to be deep into the underground scene to be into him... the casual "pop" fans came into play once The Heist hit the radio.

  • TaZzZ

    The hate for Macklemore is fucking unreal, if The Heist and Thrift Shop hadn't gotten as big as it did there wouldn't be nearly as much hate... Everything Kweli says is completely true, they created The Heist on their own, no fancy studio or major label resources. The merely shopped the finished product for a major distribution deal, but the creative end was all them. Musically, it has more live instrumentation than 95% of hip hop albums out, every song has an important, well thought out analogy or allegory that explains whatever the concept is, its incredibly written. I can almost guarantee that all those who hate on him either don't understand his concepts or haven't listened to the album straight through enough. Kendrick gets love for Vanity Slave and other rappers for similar songs, yet Thrift Shop has a more potent message in a fun and accessible way and its the most hated thing ever. Granted, I am sick of it too but the beat is flames and the writing is legit for a single. They may not be the first to do what they have, but they cracked the mainstream harder than most hip hop artists in years. Yea this is largely due to the fact that he's white and thus appeals to the most profitable demographic but he didn't choose his skin color. He's just a dope emcee talking about real topics over fire beats, whats to hate? He may not be lyrically prolific but he's much more competent than most rappers who are popular, save Kendrick and a few others. Your opinion is your opinion but you can't say he sucks or not respect him if you really listen to his music. People who go against the grain are never lauded in their time, but I bet you he is remembered more fondly than this comment section suggests...

    • ^

      What valid points? There was none. And if anyone's drinking the Kool-Aid, it's you niggas bashing Macklemore because he made it.

    • iamHipHop2

      But that Novel make some pretty valid points.....Talib himself drinking that Macklemore kool-aid talking about his dream was to connect with his fans on his iPhone .. sorry Talib .. you need to Dream a bit bigger than that or stop slanging them Macklemore independent BS and instead use your voice to keep educating on Hip Hop through dope Music ..

    • ^

      This nigga wrote a novel full of bullshit that no one cares about.

    • Real Spit

      I have no interest in a Musician who can't even accept an Award recognizing the Music without turning even that simple Thank You into a completely unrelated and almost disrespectful social cause transition .. Disrespectful to all of those fighting for those Rights or those that have experienced those harms .. There is a Right Time and Right Place and also a Right Way to do it, but to selfishly make it about YOU knowing exactly how the Media, Twitter and fan base would react online, further fueling the narrative and the Hype .. instead of just saying THANK YOU .. MUSIC is MUSIC

    • Real Spit

      btw TaZzZ to your point .. the real visionaries are those that are calling BS on Macklemore by firstly recognizing, appreciating and understanding his talent and marketing savvy to pull off this "Heist" but most importantly can see how dangerous of a trend it is when Artists replicate the "strategy of being authentic" and as a result turn "being real" into a business strategy instead of letting the Music speak for itself .. Say whatever y'all want, but this is happening in front of our eyes and the sheep that is the Media is all about it, but I promise you that True Musicians are thriving just as well and building their core, long-term sustainable fan bases right around the Hype game and that's what we'll see once this influx of Headline grabbing and Content overload passes ..

    • Real Spit

      Once you make the decision to promote your Art via a platform and a narrative like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, you must deal with what it means .. Kudos to their success, but there's nothing special about signing a "distribution deal" and retaining creative control .. It's been done for years .. It's not a story and yet here they come to "stamp" their name to it and connect the Hype to their name .. And it's the SAME strategy always .. Take ANYTHING that is just a part of being a good human and add then spin it into a story and Hype that thirsty media will suck up .. It's NOT about the Music and has never been for Macklemore the second he made the "decision" which he talks about in his 1 year letter -- where he so nicely shat on the same Undeground that made him in the first place .. Give me some Music and an artist whose only message is to be Yourself and I'm good .. to me that's Big KRIT, Yelawolf and very few others

    • A Person

      I absolutely respect what Macklemore has been able to do, but at the same time, I really don't like his style all that much. It is clear that he has talent as a writer, though I really don't care for the beats he raps over, and his flow isn't really up my alley, and I when it comes to hip hop, hooks are at the back of my mind. That is more stylistic than anything else. He has some good tracks, its just that I don't really feel his stuff all that much.

    • PRINCE AWESOM3

      Amen. It is ironic that people despise the talent both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis provide and have a song like Same Love playing on the radio: A SONG ABOUT THE PEOPLE'S RIGHTS! He has accomplished and has attained the very aspects most Hip-Hopheads desired, yet their hypocrisy and nostalgia blinds their likes of the music and acceptance of truth. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, Pacific Islander, or Irish. He has achieved more than ANY independent artist could accomplish. And that goes to all those fools who has attempted to attain the success Macklemore and Ryan Lewis while being independent such as Hopsin (can this guy get more un-original, hypocritical and corny?), Tech Nine (I like 'strange' music, but his instrumentals are too quirky}, and Mac Miller (another Drake duplicate). Bottom of the line is that Macklemore faces the exact problem Eminem has ten years ago: the color of their skin and genre in which they partake in.

    • iamhiphop

      Co-sign 100%.

  • Fuck Brooklyn

    Look nigga, if you love those boys, that's OK, but don't ever try to dictate who I should look up to as a hero and whatnot.

  • Anonymous

    Kweli that nigga but i dont rock with the white boy sorry only white rappers i like 3rd bass beastie boys el-p(company flow)old eminem miilk bone

    • TaZzZ

      So basically the white rappers that black rappers tell you its okay to like because they are pioneers? How about Eminem, Slug, Brother Ali, Action Bronson, Yelawolf, Aesop Rock, Apathy, Celph Titled, Vinnie Paz, R.A. the Rugged Man (Who biggie said was better than him? Your list sucks man, yea beastie boys are tight but they're lyrics are nursery rhymes, 3rd Bass too. El-P is a beast but he's not even a top 5 white rapper. I'd argue that every white rapper I named is more impressive, at least lyrically, than those you named, and thats just off the top of my head. Either you don't listen to much hip hop, discriminate against white rappers, or you're taste just sucks balls...

    • Anonymous

      so you do rock with white boy rappers then you pissant

  • suckadnica

    macklemore is the epitome of average

  • Real Spit

    Kweli Club ... Talib's dream is to be able to look up his fan base on an iPhone .. LOL .. That's the issue with Macklemore .. He has Talent -- YES .. But he chose to promote that talent by manufacturing and capitalizing upon realities like "being authentic" "being independent" and of course we know about the Trending Topics .. these are POP strategies and there's nothing new .. Strange Music, Rhymesayers and so many others have already been on the same ish -- so that's The Heist here ... and what do we have now? More people following and looking so completely in-authentic in the process http://kweliclub.com/pages/about-us lol

    • TaZzZ

      Definitely, because every rapper doesn't claim to be authentic and real. That has nothing to do with success. He resonates with people because he talks about shit we can actually relate to rather than the same fabricated drug-dealin bullshit every other rapper does. I've sold drugs for ten years and that shit does little for me... Content like honing the craft you're passionate about (10k Hours), relationship problems (Thin Line), independence (Jimmy Iovine), Addiction (Starting Over & Neon Cathedral), consumerism (Thrift Shop, Gold, Wing$ & Make The Money), race relations (A Wake) and even gay rights (SAme Love) impact my life much more than empty threats and bragging about your money, guns and bitches. Every song has a point to it that people can actually get behind and not feel guilty supporting. You can keep fronting all you want like drugs, cash and hoes is all your life is about and so thats what you wanna hear, but we all know thats some bullshit... Whats inauthentic about that?

    • Anonymous

      So you want everybody to be fake and not honest. Do you even realize how idiotic you sound?

  • fff

    macklemore is bad, I don't hate him but hes bad...

  • Anonymous

    Now they gonna call Talib a fag too for this shit but everything he saying is true!

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