So dig this: by now I’m sure most of you have heard or heard of Talib Kweli’s curiously far-left-of-center cut he did with Gucci Mane, “Poltergeist.” It’s not necessarily the greatest or worst song in the world, but in the hip hop world but it certainly fits in that “WTF” category of music, similar to when all those Bloods and Crips joined up and made that awful rap double album shortly after the Los Angeles Riots. It’s not even the most random rap collaboration ever; that title still belongs to M.O.P. when they linked up with LFO.
Awful. Simply awful.
But as is the norm in hip hop and its separatist nature there was some listener who, in my opinion, falsely took the song for task and credited Talib Kweli for effectively killing the “conscious” rapper with that song, writing some long, drawn out diatribe about it. Talib, being the prideful man he is (as is the case with most Black men), responded in kind, claiming that it’s due to labeling in rap which is why black women can’t seem to find the promised land, or something... I stopped reading it after a while to fix my DirecTV. I’m not missing Sunday night’s episodes of True Blood and Entourage because some guy would rather try to buy a broken gaming system off of me than fix my shit.
But I’m straying away from my point.
I’m actually going to have to side with Talib with this one, or at least what I read from his response. I feel we spend far too much time labeling and criticizing our own music, sometimes under the pretense that we deeply care about the music and wish it not to fall to the doldrums. That may be fine and all, were it in regards to the genuinely bad music that still gets processed every day (word to BET Uncut “alum” Joker The Bailbondsman). However, we’re too quick to judge anything that doesn’t fit the mold of any rapster, ready to claim blasphemy if the artist even looks at another artist.
Labeling an artist some way is essentially the kiss of death in their career. Once they’ve been marked as something that has even a modicum of negativity to go with it, that artist is essentially pigeonholed into a category they’ll almost never escape from. Even I couldn’t hear a song about bitches and bum wines from Black Thought without thinking it being some sort of cautionary tale.
Besides, don’t get things twisted: so-called “conscious” artists are some of the biggest whores in music (and I don’t mean this in an insulting manner). Erykah Badu has a trio of children by a trio of fathers. The Roots' ?uestlove convinced Sasha Grey to appear in the video for “Birthday Girl” a few years back. Hell, even Talib’s sometimes-running buddy in Black Star, Mos Def, has at least six concubines in his harem. So seeing Talib jump on a track with Gucci of all people should be the least shocking thing in my eyes. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see J. Cole jump on a track with Ace Hood. But then again, that wouldn’t benefit anybody.