Last week, just a day before I was ceremoniously laid off from AOL Music, Talib Kweli joined me for a live chat via Google Hangout.
Among the many topics we discussed, there was some talk about his longtime friend and collaborator Kanye West. And according to Kweli, the whole ‘Kanye interrupts a show’ thing is not new. He’s been the victim of it himself, back when West was opening shows for him in the pre-College Dropout days.
“He would cut me off during my shows,” Kweli explained. “So when I see him do it to Taylor Swift, I’m like ‘Oh, that’s what he used to do to me. He literally would come on stage while I was rapping and stop the music and say, ‘Yo, I gotta kick this rhyme. And I would have to be like, ‘Yo, you can’t, this is my show.’ But that’s how passionate he is about the music.”
Not only that, but Ye’ would also occasionally opt to fly to shows over taking the tour bus, proving that the diva act that he’s become known for is not exactly new, either.
“Kanye used to do that, and then we would have to get on the tour bus to go to the next city and he would be in his room, and we’d be banging on his door and he’s not answering,” Kweli said. “He’d call me three hours later like, ‘What city are you in now?’ And then he would get on a plane, even though he got have just got out of bed and got on a tour bus, he would fly to the next city and meet us and apologize. It makes sense when you think about him as a person.”
Kweli feels that Kanye gets more negative criticism than he deserves.
“He’s done some things that have been looked at as arrogant, and I’m sure that he’s dealing with them,” he said. “And he’s done some things that he’s apologized for. He also said George Bush don’t care about black people. He’s also done some revolutionary things. At the end of the day those positives and negatives are what make him the great artist that he is. And I can tell you from first hand experiences that he didn’t change… The way he is now, he was like that before the money and the fame. He was talking about he was the best producer; ‘I’m the best rapper,’ ‘I’m the best dresser.’ His attitude was exactly the same.”
Also, he gives credit to ‘Ye for shining a light on the underground.
“Kanye is a champion of our culture and he’s somebody who’s driven the culture forward in such a way that it’s benefited all of us,” he said. “Like, me directly. I can speak for myself, Common, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest. All of us have benefited from Kanye West beats, from Kanye West talking about us, from Kanye West working on us. He elevated that brand of hip-hop to the mainstream…. He’s given his all. Kanye gives more than people. He’s given his entire being to hip-hop. We should be thankful and gracious that he gives us so much of himself.
Watch my interview with Talib Kweli
I’m pleased to share that Project E.A.R.’s new album “Revolution” is finally available for sale.
I’m really proud of the records I produced and co-wrote on the album— “I Don’t Care,” “Chasing Rainbows” and “Can’t Get Enough,” respectively— and I wish the band nothing but success with this album.
For me, personally, I’m excited that people will get to hear something that I (and everyone else involved) worked on really hard to get right. These songs really took shape over a year ago. Let me explain.
Back in the middle of January 2012, I was on BBM with my friend Yaniz in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Yaniz manages a handful of artists and DJs there and is essentially just one of those people who makes shit happen in Southeast Asia. She tells me that the band she manages, Project E.A.R.— a super group of sorts, made up of members of a handful of band members from different countries in Southeast Asia— is getting ready to work on their album and is looking for beats for it.
Beats? Well, I always have those. So I sent a few over, and literally within hours I’d heard back from her saying that they wanted to purchase two of the tracks I sent. I love selling beats soooo, yeah, exciting !
The story would have typically ended there, as I’ve sold beats to international artists before. And while we might have connected eventually as I traveled through their respective countries, and vice versa— as I’ve done with artist artists I’ve worked with in that capacity— we’d probably never actually work on the songs together in the same room. And I kind of hate that.
In the midst of BBM convo, Yaniz told me that the band members would be flying in from their individual countries and convening in Bali, Indonesia, to record the project. They were renting a surf villa in Oluwatu for a week, and would be building a studio inside, where they would make the record.
To be honest, Bali was not somewhere I was planning to go. I know Bali has this allure to it, especially since “Eat Pray Love” was shot there and all that, but to me it just wasn’t on my radar like that.
“You should go!” Yaniz said to me in a BBM message. “It’s Bali!”
I mulled it over for a few minutes, thought about working more hands-on with the band and how that might lend itself to making better music— especially considering that these beats I’d sent were largely just skeletons— thenlooked at my schedule, decided that some of the stuff could stand to get canceled and made a rather impulsive decision. Fuck it, I’m going to Bali. Two weeks later I was on a 24-hour flight to the other side of the world by myself, having never met the people I was going to work with and the lofty goals of making some great records.
Upon meeting the band members— Moots (Malaysia), Dandee (Thailand), J.D. (Malaysia), A.J. (Malaysia) and Jamir (Philippines)— I could tell right away that we would make some good tunes. There’s just a vibe you get from certain people, where they’re very genuine and sincere. The fact that I’d traveled so far, it wasn’t lost on them. That type of energy goes a long way when you’re being creative. On occasion I’ve worked with people who aren’t so open and down to just try things out, and I’ve found that it’s often lead to poor results. I don’t know how anyone can work in a creative field these days and not be down to just do whatever. We have all these tools to produce amazing things, have unlimited computer power and space. It’s the perfect canvas to just throw things at the wall, see what sticks. What do you have to lose?
But I digress. The Project E.A.R. guys were not like that at all. If I had a suggestion, they’d at least give it a shot, see how it sounded. If collectively the consensus was that it was wack, we’d delete it. They let me produce their vocals, help them with lyrics and adjust their flows to sound more palatable for an American audience. It was a collaborative effort.
So anyway, over the course of a week we worked on the three songs I produced, and they also cut a few other songs from the album as well. I wasn’t as intimately involved in those tracks, if for no other reason than because I was so jetlagged. I would literally wake up in the morning there and we’d have a communal breakfast type thing— the people at the villa cook for you— and then we’d just jump right into working.
There really wasn’t much down time. By the early evening, following dinner, I’d be so tired. I would just retire to my room in the villa and pass out. Because of that I’d usually wake up early, too. And then I’d just lay on the couch with the door open, listening to wind blow and the waves crash outside. It was among the more peaceful experiences I’ve had in my life.
One day I walked down from the villa and went for a swim in the Indian Ocean. The water was warm and the corral was rough. I was by myself and surrounded by Australian surfers who were just there to catch a wave. I waded in the water and looked at the sky. I thought to myself that it was altogether incredible that some musical ideas that I thought up one cold and lonely night in my Staten Island apartment brought me all the way to where I was. That’s pretty cool.
“I Don’t Care” features Dave Kennedy of Angels and Airwaves, and is an ode to arena rock, complete with a scream and shout-style chorus that I think you will hopefully have stuck in your head after you hear it.
“Can’t Get Enough” is a keyboard-driven pop rock song, a love letter to that one thing each respective member can’t live without. My favorite part of the song is probably the Nile Rodgers-style disco guitar on the song’s chorus. That, I can’t get enough of.
And there’s another song, “Chasing Rainbows,” which isn’t available yet on Soundcloud. When they make it available I’ll be sure to post it.
But anyway hit me up, let me know what you think.