If you regularly visit HipHopDX.com, then you’ve no doubt been exposed to the differing views on the concept of the socially conscious emcee. One such artist who has repeatedly been tagged with the conscious rapper label is Talib Kweli. The term has been brought up so much, that last year, Kweli announced his plan to name his next album Prisoner of Consciousness. During a recent appearance on “The Colbert Report,” Kweli gave his thoughts on the notion of being conscious, and how his personal and political beliefs find their way into his music.
Calling Hip Hop a tool for expression, Kweli compared Hip Hop and Rap to early folk music. That naturally led to Colbert asking the Brooklyn-based emcee for his opinion on being called a socially conscious emcee.
“I accept it as a limitation,” Kweli explained. “But it’s a compliment; I look at it as a compliment. So I take it.”
One specific example of his opinion on a political event finding its way into his rhymes was the 2010 song “Papers Please.” The track was one of many Hip Hop songs that addressed Arizona State Bill 1070, which was aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants.
“The problem with the Arizona law is that it bases it on your look and your appearance” Kweli added. “They’re profiling. And that’s something that us in the African American community can definitely relate to. I had to do a show in Arizona, and me being a ‘socially conscious’ artist, I could not go to Arizona and not address the issue—especially when Zach de la Rocha, Cypress Hill and other socially conscious artists are actually boycotting Arizona because of this policy.”