Ever since he teamed up with high school friend Mos Def to form Black Star in the late ’90s, Talib Kweli has been one of the most critically acclaimed artists in hip-hop. One “Get By” and six solo albums later, Kweli is still killing it, musically. As he embarks on a campaign for New Era hats, we caught up with the Brooklyn native to talk music, style and manhood in the modern age.
MM: For someone who wants to be a hip-hop artist or a rapper, what would be your advice for them?
TK: To just do it. You are what you say you are. If you say you are a hip-hop artist and you’re making hip-hop music, you’re a hip-hop artist. You don’t have to be in the industry, you don’t have to be cool, you don’t have to be known. You just have to embrace it.
Cornel West wears the same thing every day. He must have like five suits that are all the same. When you’re trying to solve the world’s problems, you don’t have time to be figuring out your outfit.
MM: What’s one rap song by someone else that you wish you’d written?
TK: “Follow the Leader” by Eric B. & Rakim. It’s the best rap song ever made. If you look at my tumblr page, I just made a list of the 100 greatest hip-hop songs. It’s at the top.
MM: How often do people come up to you and ask if you’re going to reunite with Mos Def?
TK: Every day. That is a question I get asked often.
MM: And what do you say?
TK: I say we reunite all the time. We just did a show. We have a Black Star reunion about 20 times a year.
MM: Are you going to do another album together?
TK: It’s possible. We don’t have anything in the works right now.
MM: You’re also a flagbearer for New Era hats. What’s your all-time favorite hat?
TK: New York Yankees. That’s the best baseball hat.
MM: Is it OK for someone to wear the hat of a team that they’re not actually a fan of?
TK: Sure, why not? If it’s a good hat, matches your outfit.
MM: Is there any outfit you shouldn’t wear a hat with?
TK: Sure. A Speedo.
MM: Got any other style tips for guys?
TK: My life has become busy to the point where I’m less interested in thinking about clothes. But when you think about clothes less, you become more stylish. And when you overthink it, you go in with trends. So I’m now becoming, as I get older, more interested in a uniform look. Like Cornel West, he wears the same thing every day. He must have like five suits that are all the same. When you’re younger, you look at that as boring. But when you’re older, you start to get it, and you start to realize, “This is my style.” And when you’re somebody like Cornel West, who’s trying to solve the world’s problems, you don’t have time to be figuring out your outfit.
MM: What does it mean to be a man in 2012?
TK: To be a man in 2012 means feeding your family and mastering your craft. It is about creating new traditions.
MM: How has your view of manhood changed since you were starting out your career?
TK: Since I’ve started I’ve had two children and a marriage. I am way more responsible as a man now.
MM: Is there a specific moment when you feel you became a man?
TK: When my son was born.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from a father or father figure?
TK: You know how dudes stop women on the street and ask for their numbers? Don’t do that.
You can follow Talib Kweli on Twitter here.