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.” 

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