I wasn’t an expert on all things Glenn Beck when the email from a Rolling Stone editor arrived in my inbox two weeks ago asking me if I’d be interested in interviewing him.
I mean, I was aware of who he was, but I’m not much of a cable news addict, so my mind wasn’t polluted with a bunch of prejudices about him based on things he’d said in the past.
The idea was simple enough?—?Beck and rock musician Andrew W.K. had announced that W.K. was going to have a talk radio show on The Blaze, and I would interview them both about it.
The only catch was this: Beck didn’t want to do it.
It was understandable. Given his history with Fox News, it was doubtful a left wing rag like RS would give him a fair shake anyway. It’s also just really difficult to get people to do interviews these days. You’d be surprised how little sway the mainstream media actually has.
It seemed like a challenge but one that was not altogether impossible to pull off. And Medium actually is the reason for that.
A few years ago, a largely-unknown writer on Medium?—?Srinivas Rao?—?had his work randomly discovered by Beck, and it was through Rao’s experience with him, having his book discussed on his show and later even appearing on it, that I knew Beck was more approachable than most writers would tend to realize.
With all due respect to Rao, it wasn’t like he was some big dog. In fact, he was more like an everyman, and the fact that Beck plucked him from obscurity and chose to highlight his work?—?which was certainly worth reading and talking about?—?was kinda cool to me. It made me feel like you could still be a little guy in this country and win. His book turned into a bestseller!
So, I suspected that most people who might ask to interview Beck were just doing it wrong. I learned this much was 100% true after I called his publicist and wrote him an email outlining what it was I was trying to do.
I explained in very plain terms that I wasn’t a political journalist, didn’t have an agenda and wasn’t looking for Beck to fit into some neat little narrative that I already concocted. It wasn’t a ploy to make him look bad or good. It was just the opportunity to have a candid discussion.
After some more back and forth (and I’m definitely simplifying this here), he finally agreed to do it. A week later, Beck, Andrew?—?who was calling in from Rio, where he was performing with Marky Ramone?—?and I, were on the phone. It was a good, thoughtful, free-flowing conversation. Not a debate?—?not a my philosophy vs. your philosophy?—?but an opportunity to share ideas.
However, there was one quote that wound up on the cutting room floor, and I wanted to share it here. Toward the end of the conversation, we were discussing how to exist and act in country right now which has a lot of unrest in it, even if that unrest isn’t specifically on your doorstep.
Let’s just take a step back and say, what is it that I can learn, what is it that I can do better, what is that, quite honestly as a Christian, I am commanded to do? And what I’m commanded to do is love one another, treat anyone who everyone deems your enemy with love, not with hatred. There’s far too much hatred, there’s far too much anger. And that is going to lead us into a very dark place. I can’t control the streets of Baltimore or Ferguson. But I can make a difference in my own community and say, “Okay, when you see people burning down cities, don’t let that put enmity between you and them.” Don’t find anger there. Let’s find reconciliation. Let’s find solutions. Let’s find joy and love and more importantly, let’s be the first responders when they need help. When someone needs help, let’s be there. Let’s help them. Let’s love one another.
I think that’s good message. Idealistic, but good. One we all probably need to hear.
Read the rest of the interview here.
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