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is the conscious rapper dead?

the panic!

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here's something i've been asking myself for a while, now. just to draw personal parallel: i'd say a lot of the Hip Hop that's starting to get shine in Cape Town (and Cap City) falls under what the writer roughly prescribes as the Lupe Fiasco fold (at least in action). that is: it's skilled and socially conscious, but also has preoccupations with being "fresh" and "getting paid". ostensibly, having no qualms with balancing a Pan-African, pro-Human worldivew, with supporting corporations like Nike (which are known to violate human rights) as well as other venues and tenets many could argue to espouse unregulated materialism.

and before anyone tries to jump me, this isn't an indictment on any person, nor some kind of self-righteous posturing, it's just an observation.

i'd just like to share with people's views on the matter.

with no further adieu:

Talib Kweli and the demise of the conscious rapper
It's more important to adopt the look of rebellion without the accompanying mentality


By: Mychal Smith

No artist wants to be boxed in. They don’t want to feel the pressure from their fans to constantly produce the same type of material. They desire the freedom to experiment, step outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves and their audience to look at the art and themselves differently. I respect this outlook. I do.

But then Talib Kweli does a song with Gucci Mane and I’m forced to reevaluate everything I believe.

Granted, I should’ve seen this coming. After Kweli essentially co-signed Slim Thug’s idiotic comments regarding black women and his a**ertion that people don’t like Drake simply because he’s successful, there seems to be no one in hip-hop that Kweli won’t defend/make excuses for. When he hops on a remix to Rick Ross’ B.M.F. and proudly shouts the name of Larry Hoover, don’t act surprised.

And he has every right to do so. The issue, as I see it, is that he is trying to do everything he can distant himself from the base that built him. Everyone’s favorite conscious rapper doesn’t want to be conscious anymore.

To be “conscious” in hip-hop hasn’t meant a lot in a while, basically serving as a catch-all for artists who fell outside of the mainstream/gangsta/money-cash-hoes mentality that rappers constantly catch flack for. When the North Carolina-based group Little Brother first appeared, they were tagged with the conscious label, though their music hardly embodied that aesthetic. But the late '90s and early '00s did see a rise in popularity of rappers with socially responsible/conscious lyrics, such as Mos Def, dead prez, Common, and of course, Kweli. After the ma**ive success that was Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, record companies and fans alike were tuning in to listen to more than just the Jay-Zs and DMXs of the time. It was as close to balanced state of hip-hop as had been seen since the late 80s/early 90s.

Anytime you label an artist as socially conscious, you limit the audience they reach. The preconceived notion being that all they want to talk about is how messed up the world is to make you feel bad about having a good time. They're Debbie-downers of the worse kind, so why would you want to spend your money on that? In response, the artists who get tagged, if they wish to reach new audiences (and new money) have to go out of their way to show just how unconscious/ignorant/balanced/human or whatever other term they can think of so as not to alienate anyone. The more they reach out, the more unrecognizable they become to their old fans, until...

“...even the conscious rap is gone too. The stuff Common Sense and Talib Kweli and Mos Def were rhyming about. What was socially conscious and responsible about the music has been replaced by hipster kids in skinny jeans and mohawks.”

50 Cent had to point it out. He’s right. Conscious rap is disappearing and its place is the emo rap of Drake and Kid Cudi. The closest thing to a politically aware/socially conscious emcee in the mainstream is Lupe Fiasco, and even he would rather be seen as more eclectic than conscious. Like afros in the '70s, it has become more important to adopt the look of rebellion without appropriating the accompanying mentality. Common put the nail in the coffin last year when he rapped on the remix of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face : “They say you be on the conscious tip/get your head right and get up on this conscious dick.”

Now Kweli is throwing dirt on top of the grave. He wants to serve everyone, it seems, releasing songs to dispute the Arizona immigration law along with the aforementioned Gucci Mane collaboration. I understand not wanting to be singularly defined, but when you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to no one.

via
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 07:53:03 AM by the panic! »


RearrangedReality

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Yes, Talib has said it long time along that a conscious rapper is what he is not. I don't mind him saying that if he is just saying to remove the tag so he can reach a broader fan base. But how you present yourself in your music is what ultimately determines what kind of fan base you have and the kind of individual you are. If certain styles/kinds of music you listen to represents who you are or what what you'd like to be or you mentality then Talib is only a conscious rapper by what he delivers on a record and not in what he claims to be or not to be.

If conscious music is dead, what alternative music that socially resposible thats available to shape the minds of the youth? especially black youth who dont realise that they are still opressed. For anyone attempting this conscious approach would find it very difficult to find an audience that would understand them considering the current trends in entertainment. Popular entertainment for the youth is shaping their minds to no have interest in socially responsible messages of any kind of art form i think.

Spaza Hip-Hop is predominately conscious so cape town black youth have something with a potential to have the same influence the Common's and Talib's used to have.

By the way, I dont think that Generations soapy/drama ridiculousless is not from ignorance of the writers/director. I think somebody is a mission to influence black society's behaviour and way of thinking. the other day i saw Khapela's rural fiance eating pap with a fork and knife.

I understand not wanting to be singularly defined, but when you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to no one.

true

« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 12:22:25 PM by RearrangedReality »


the panic!

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briCK

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Hip Hop generally mimics whats going on in real life..

and life goes in phases..

the "conscious rapper" came about coz of the era!

the time then required conscious rappers!

Trapped In The 90ies Nigga.


Original Syn

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I don't know if the conscious rapper is dead or not, maybe we've grown past him (yes he is resoundingly a him).
I was at 1 point a backpacker but I outgrew it like pretty much all my backpacker homeys, I still love the Roots and Mos and Talib and Tumi but they all aren't the conscious rappers they were. It s hard to be that single minded when you get older and hopefully know so much more.
I can't listen to Immortal Tech all the time, I'd get depressed, as we get older we need and see more light and shade, and I'm not paying so much attention so I hope the conscious rapper is still rapping to his new generation of smelly head-nodding backpackers so deep underground I'm unwilling to dirty my fly sneaks to see.
NOBODY TELLS ME I'M COOL, HARD TO TALK WHEN YO TEETH CHATTERING.


1kind

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I remember a debate on AG about the difference between the 'Conscious rap' of the likes of Slum Village, Lupe Fiasco, Little Brother  and the 'Conscious rap' of the likes of Immortal Technique, Lost Children of Babylon and the 'Conscious Rap' of Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, etc.

Until now conscious rap has meant anyone who is not in the mainstream. This made it confusing for the listener or fan to hear their favourite conscious rapper talking about cash, a**, hoes, and cars...albeit it with their conscious twist.

The conscious rapper is not dead. There will always be a place for emcees who are not afraid to raise certain issues. The only difference now is that we are able to tell the bullshitters from the real-doers.
I put Religion, Opression and Weakness underground and when i looked down i felt myself begin to GROW.

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we be trappin nucca

That not good enough for ya?


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I'm unwilling to dirty my fly sneaks to see.

Or get my tires slashed coz I am a "corporate drone" ... and get dents on my whip coz niggaz is wilding out
f*** that y'all can tell me bout it...if you looking for me I am the nigga drinking cocktails and screeming at these lonely hoes!

Trapped In The 90ies Nigga.


the panic!

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I remember a debate on AG about the difference between the 'Conscious rap' of the likes of Slum Village, Lupe Fiasco, Little Brother  and the 'Conscious rap' of the likes of Immortal Technique, Lost Children of Babylon and the 'Conscious Rap' of Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, etc.

Until now conscious rap has meant anyone who is not in the mainstream. This made it confusing for the listener or fan to hear their favourite conscious rapper talking about cash, a**, hoes, and cars...albeit it with their conscious twist.

The conscious rapper is not dead. There will always be a place for emcees who are not afraid to raise certain issues. The only difference now is that we are able to tell the bullshitters from the real-doers.
that sounds mad interesting. can you throw a link this way? personally, i prefer the latter. for me, its just more musically interesting and its also the kind of hip hop that had the biggest impact on me coming up. and i like and relate to its tenets as a subculture, its sense of community.

its also the most likely to challenge and surprise my brain in an original, exciting, almost non-sequiturish way - much in the same way that i expect those same things from other forms of art that i consume. and yes, i view hip hop as art. i dont look to it for life instructions, thats my own duty, so i never understood why people always bring up dirtiness and dress code into the discussion. Iaepetus is my favourite label in SA and i go around in a f***ing peacoat and skullcap most of the time! lol
« Last Edit: July 22, 2010, 08:42:49 PM by the panic! »


Ramorethetho

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Is there still a festival called Black August
Feeling satisfaction from the street croud reaction


The Angry Hand of God

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Wasn't that a once-off event?

Black August as a movement is still active though.




the panic!

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Kweli's response:

[haven't read it yet, going to drink, now]

enjoy.

I have been working on my new album, Prisoner Of Conscious since the summer began. It is a title I have had floating in my head for quite some time, but it is even more relevant right now. Hip Hop is like bipartisan politics these days. Everyone chooses sides and argues for the sake of the argument, not to actually achieve any clarity.

I am a man and an artist of the people. When I say that, I do not just mean people I agree with, people who understand me or people I can relate to. I mean the people in the truest sense of the term. This philosophy, although professed by many intellectuals, is lost on them. They would rather judge the ma**es as a foolish body, greatly in need of their intellectual musings. Any public figure who attracts a crowd of people should be examined, and if they are smart about their business they are to be respected. Respect transcends personal taste, you can and often should respect your enemy.

Now I don't know Mychal Smith, but what I do know is he is a blogger that follows me on Twitter, and I guess my decision to record with Gucci Mane bothered him enough to blog about it, declaring my move a part of the demise of the conscious rapper.

I offer a different take. I say people like Mychal Smith are every bit as caught up in the flashing lights as the "ignorant" ma**es they like to judge. Instead of celebrating it, they get joy from speaking against it. They truly believe not liking Gucci Mane makes them intellectually superior to say, some chic down south. They pay so much attention to what they perceive to be negative, based on a limited world view, that they miss the positive, even when it's right in their face.

The week the Gucci/Kweli record leaked, I performed at the Lupus fundraiser for the J Dilla Foundation, and also recorded a PSA about SB 1070. I performed with the Roots, Blitz the Amba**ador, Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew at Prospect Park for Okay Africa. My kids were with me. I also performed at the Duck Down 15th anniversary party, and I recorded a song about the Age of Enlightenment to help NYC high school kids pa** the regents for Fresh Prep. These are not high paying gigs, this is for the love. And this is one week of work.

I haven't even counted the fact that my release with Hi Tek, Revolutions Per Minute a month ago as well as Eardrum and Liberation, my last two, were packed with "conscious" hip hop. Even outside of my music, my life is that of a conscious community driven man. Somehow, doing a song with Gucci Mane erases all of this in some people's minds. Who are they to judge me? What do they do in their lives that is conscious? If you ain't doing more than me; you just blogging, fall back.

I'd be willing to bet Mychal Smith did not purchase my latest album. I know for sure he did not take into account my musical output or who I am as a person when he wrote his blog. To people like him, I am simply a character, a one dimensional celebrity, who is supposed to conform to his idea of what good art is, not my own.

Now to break down the pseudo intellectualism on display"

"Then Talib Kweli does a song with Gucci Mane and I'm forced to reevaluate everything I believe."- MS

Mr. Smith, my choice to do a song with Gucci is my choice. It doesn't force you to reevaluate anything. If it does, you should re-examine what your beliefs are based on.

"After Kweli co-signed Slim Thug's idiotic comments...and his a**ertion that people don't like Drake simply because he's successful..."-MS

Mr. Smith, go back and read my feed. Stating my opinion is not co-signing anything. When Slim Thug said dudes will make it rain before they pay a mortgage, that was a valid point. My point was that his valid points were overlooked because of the generalizations. As far as Drake, I know a dope MC when I hear one. Whether it pertains to you or not, there are certainly people who hate him because he is forced down their throats on radio, who would have loved him had they discovered his mixtapes years ago, as I did. When he shouts out Slum Village and Little Brother in songs and raps honestly about the pitfalls of stardom, I look at that as a victory for conscious music, not a problem.

Also, the BMF song is banging, by the way.

Mr. Smith is correct when he talks about the pitfalls of labeling yourself the conscious artist. If you listen to my records, I tried to distance myself from that label very early in my career. I would often go on about the positive influence artists like Jay-Z and Diddy had on me when underground journalists would try to get me to co-sign their personal hate. He is also correct when he says no artist wants to be in a box. But his understanding stops there because his is the perspective of an outsider. It is much more complicated when you are in this business actually doing it for a living. Just because I don't like labels doesn't make my music or my output any less responsible, and neither does a song with Gucci Mane. My track record speaks for itself. My last video was Ballad Of The Black Gold...

Common is from the south side of Chicago, like Lupe. Common been pimpin in his rhymes since his first album. Lupe was a thug rapper before the Lupe we know today. I'm from Brooklyn, NY. My music reflects it all, Brownsville and Park Slope. In Mychal Smith's view, the fact that I recorded Papers Please for Arizona and did a song with Gucci means I'm trying to be everything to everyone. No fam, I'm just being me. I'm sorry it makes your head explode that I actually might enjoy Gucci's music, but I do. I didn't do it for money, I did it because I wanted to. He is a dynamic artist that is serving his fan base well. I love music enough to be curious as to what our collaboration would sound like, and he did too. I didn't compromise my style or views on the song, and as a musician, it was fun (remember that, fun?).

Gucci Mane's fans need to hear my music for sure, and some of my fans could use a little Gucci in their lives. I am down for all my people, even the Gucci fans. Deal with it. As far as those who say, "well, he raps about drugs," if you take Tylenol or drink, then stop judging. For those who say I shouldn't do a song with him because he hit a woman on You Tube, well, I know conscious rappers that have hit women. They just aint on You Tube with it. People make mistakes, that's his karma to deal with. I wouldn't want someone to not record with me based on some of the f---ed up things I've done in life.

Mychal Smith seems to love hip hop, and love our people. But sometimes we, as a people, can be so blinded by what we perceive to be negative, that we forget to support the positive. If you are dismayed by the state of music, spend more time supporting the artists who actually try to change it instead tearing them down. The music will change, and as you get older, mainstream music will make less sense to you. Take the audience an artist is speaking to into account before you judge them. You may not be in their audience. One love.

Talib Kweli

« Last Edit: July 22, 2010, 08:58:05 PM by the panic! »


Sosiba

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Forgive me brother, I might be derailing your thread but this is my take on "conscious" rappers.

Hip hop has definately played a huge part in developing my consciousness. I mean I read "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison after hearing BlackStar's Thieves in the night joint, just to give an example.

So I've always been a "conscious" Hip Hop head and as norm would have it I detested any other "sub-genre". But the more I got into it the more flaws I found within it. The 1st one was how I realised that the poor, the ma**es are nothing but artistic subjects to many artists. To me it seemed they derived some enjoyment out of writing about the often tragic subjects they wrote about, or at least some attachment. But then the danger with this, as I once argued with a friend is that, at least subconsciously, they are not really willing to take action regarding the plight of those they write about because once change happens and there are no more poor, destitute, down trodden then they lose an artistic subject, a source of enjoyment. So it seemed they needed the poor (I limit myself to those rappers who write about the poor, the "people" because those are the ones I really liked) to exist so as to not lose an artistic subject.

I became more convinced of this after having attended many peotry shows and the likes, these guys, we, seem to have the problem of acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowing, to gain some intellectual superiority over our peers. So resistance, rebellion, become "cool" when for many these are hard realities. I then had to accept that perhaps I did not get into Hip Hop for any more deep reason than a house kat got into house; to be cool. Think : that Hippies' episode in SouthPark. Having been struck by this, I realised that art will NEVER spark any revolution (in any sense of the word) because we like so much to be different for its own sake, finding our "own space" within society that a drastic change in society, which is what the many people we profess to speak for actually need threatens our own selfish interests.

Then there's the abstract rappers. I think Nyiko, a friend of mine was right when he said a person living in a shack has no time to think about "100 deaths", "Life being an illusion", "Belief in Alliens" etc because for that person the problems are very basic (Warmth in winter, food, clothes etc) without insulting their intelligence. But we, well fed, well sheltered can occupy ourselves with such in the same way that the Greeks could excel in philosophy and art because they had slaves to do the real work for them. We might be convinced we are deep and shit but we are as shallow as they come, in some race to find the smartest lines that means absoutely nothing to the concrete realities facing people.

While I recognise that "conscious", "abstract" Hip Hop is more thought provoking (or atleast provokes more smart thoughts) than say, "commercial" Hip Hop, if provoking such thoughts leads to no decisive action being taken then its pretty useless.
I therefore charge "conscious" rappers with the same crime I charge "commercial" rappers. By trying so hard to be smart, to be different, they have lost all relevance to people. In the final analysis the choice between Dungeon, crunk, Abstract, or whatever becomes that of mere taste with one having no objective superiority over the other.

So maybe they (the conscious rappers) die out because this avenue of "coolness" is getting too hot for them then they try some other one.
"Why was the worker shot? Because he protested... Why was the negro shot? Because he was there. This is the gratuitous (without cause) violence against Black people that so called pure marxist can't comprehend" Frank Wilderson.


RearrangedReality

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Kweli's response:

[haven't read it yet, going to drink, now]

enjoy.

I have been working on my new album, Prisoner Of Conscious since the summer began. It is a title I have had floating in my head for quite some time, but it is even more relevant right now. Hip Hop is like bipartisan politics these days. Everyone chooses sides and argues for the sake of the argument, not to actually achieve any clarity.

I am a man and an artist of the people. When I say that, I do not just mean people I agree with, people who understand me or people I can relate to. I mean the people in the truest sense of the term. This philosophy, although professed by many intellectuals, is lost on them. They would rather judge the ma**es as a foolish body, greatly in need of their intellectual musings. Any public figure who attracts a crowd of people should be examined, and if they are smart about their business they are to be respected. Respect transcends personal taste, you can and often should respect your enemy.

Now I don't know Mychal Smith, but what I do know is he is a blogger that follows me on Twitter, and I guess my decision to record with Gucci Mane bothered him enough to blog about it, declaring my move a part of the demise of the conscious rapper.

I offer a different take. I say people like Mychal Smith are every bit as caught up in the flashing lights as the "ignorant" ma**es they like to judge. Instead of celebrating it, they get joy from speaking against it. They truly believe not liking Gucci Mane makes them intellectually superior to say, some chic down south. They pay so much attention to what they perceive to be negative, based on a limited world view, that they miss the positive, even when it's right in their face.

The week the Gucci/Kweli record leaked, I performed at the Lupus fundraiser for the J Dilla Foundation, and also recorded a PSA about SB 1070. I performed with the Roots, Blitz the Amba**ador, Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew at Prospect Park for Okay Africa. My kids were with me. I also performed at the Duck Down 15th anniversary party, and I recorded a song about the Age of Enlightenment to help NYC high school kids pa** the regents for Fresh Prep. These are not high paying gigs, this is for the love. And this is one week of work.

I haven't even counted the fact that my release with Hi Tek, Revolutions Per Minute a month ago as well as Eardrum and Liberation, my last two, were packed with "conscious" hip hop. Even outside of my music, my life is that of a conscious community driven man. Somehow, doing a song with Gucci Mane erases all of this in some people's minds. Who are they to judge me? What do they do in their lives that is conscious? If you ain't doing more than me; you just blogging, fall back.

I'd be willing to bet Mychal Smith did not purchase my latest album. I know for sure he did not take into account my musical output or who I am as a person when he wrote his blog. To people like him, I am simply a character, a one dimensional celebrity, who is supposed to conform to his idea of what good art is, not my own.

Now to break down the pseudo intellectualism on display"

"Then Talib Kweli does a song with Gucci Mane and I'm forced to reevaluate everything I believe."- MS

Mr. Smith, my choice to do a song with Gucci is my choice. It doesn't force you to reevaluate anything. If it does, you should re-examine what your beliefs are based on.

"After Kweli co-signed Slim Thug's idiotic comments...and his a**ertion that people don't like Drake simply because he's successful..."-MS

Mr. Smith, go back and read my feed. Stating my opinion is not co-signing anything. When Slim Thug said dudes will make it rain before they pay a mortgage, that was a valid point. My point was that his valid points were overlooked because of the generalizations. As far as Drake, I know a dope MC when I hear one. Whether it pertains to you or not, there are certainly people who hate him because he is forced down their throats on radio, who would have loved him had they discovered his mixtapes years ago, as I did. When he shouts out Slum Village and Little Brother in songs and raps honestly about the pitfalls of stardom, I look at that as a victory for conscious music, not a problem.

Also, the BMF song is banging, by the way.

Mr. Smith is correct when he talks about the pitfalls of labeling yourself the conscious artist. If you listen to my records, I tried to distance myself from that label very early in my career. I would often go on about the positive influence artists like Jay-Z and Diddy had on me when underground journalists would try to get me to co-sign their personal hate. He is also correct when he says no artist wants to be in a box. But his understanding stops there because his is the perspective of an outsider. It is much more complicated when you are in this business actually doing it for a living. Just because I don't like labels doesn't make my music or my output any less responsible, and neither does a song with Gucci Mane. My track record speaks for itself. My last video was Ballad Of The Black Gold...

Common is from the south side of Chicago, like Lupe. Common been pimpin in his rhymes since his first album. Lupe was a thug rapper before the Lupe we know today. I'm from Brooklyn, NY. My music reflects it all, Brownsville and Park Slope. In Mychal Smith's view, the fact that I recorded Papers Please for Arizona and did a song with Gucci means I'm trying to be everything to everyone. No fam, I'm just being me. I'm sorry it makes your head explode that I actually might enjoy Gucci's music, but I do. I didn't do it for money, I did it because I wanted to. He is a dynamic artist that is serving his fan base well. I love music enough to be curious as to what our collaboration would sound like, and he did too. I didn't compromise my style or views on the song, and as a musician, it was fun (remember that, fun?).

Gucci Mane's fans need to hear my music for sure, and some of my fans could use a little Gucci in their lives. I am down for all my people, even the Gucci fans. Deal with it. As far as those who say, "well, he raps about drugs," if you take Tylenol or drink, then stop judging. For those who say I shouldn't do a song with him because he hit a woman on You Tube, well, I know conscious rappers that have hit women. They just aint on You Tube with it. People make mistakes, that's his karma to deal with. I wouldn't want someone to not record with me based on some of the f---ed up things I've done in life.

Mychal Smith seems to love hip hop, and love our people. But sometimes we, as a people, can be so blinded by what we perceive to be negative, that we forget to support the positive. If you are dismayed by the state of music, spend more time supporting the artists who actually try to change it instead tearing them down. The music will change, and as you get older, mainstream music will make less sense to you. Take the audience an artist is speaking to into account before you judge them. You may not be in their audience. One love.

Talib Kweli

well in that case then Mr Kweli,  why not do a song called Arab Money instead of Black Gold? why talk like you've always had this philosophy since the beginning of your career but you had a song called The Manifesto? why write about all the shit you write about if you feel theres nothing wrong with pimping music, drug music and all of that? why the hell should we take the shit you say seriously on record instead of just listening to it cause its "fun".

nigga trying to sound smart saying dumb shit. f*** Talib!

I respect gangster rappers better than people who write shit like they care about life they turn around and be hypocrites like you.


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I lost Talib when he switched flows...dang. Annoying as phuck
its possible to take the art of making music seriously without taking yourself seriously

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