Often branded as an “underground emcee” throughout his career, Talib Kweli has spoken out on the term, explaining that the label is regularly misused and that some apply the label to rappers who don’t fit in a box. Speaking with Respect Magazine, the Black Star member threw out a few examples of how “underground” doesn’t work.
“People often confuse what they mean when they refer to underground. Was DMX underground? How about Red and Meth when they were going platinum? Is it a sound? A feeling? Or is there some sort of industrial numerical value?” he said. “Is it about record sales? Labels and media outlets have to put things in neat little boxes to sell them, they have to package it somehow. If they can’t explain it, they can’t sell it.”
He continued by explaining that his career doesn’t follow any one path, and that there isn’t a standard career trajectory for all rappers.
“There is much about my success as an artist that these folks can’t explain. To you and me it’s plain as day, but to them it’s perplexing,” he said. “An artist can be many things, whatever he chooses to be. So ‘Cube can be a capitalist and make Coors commercials, he can be a filmmaker and make Family Fare or he can be an underground gangsta rapper selling music independently. All at once.”