Talib Kweli Pens A New Essay On Hip-Hop, Artistic Identity & The Value Of Black Lives

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Spurred not only by the recent, tragic killing of nine innocent people in Charleston but the fundamental need for politically engaged artists, Talib Kweli has penned a new essay for Mic, one that connects some of the dots between modern hip-hop, racial justice and the groups working to build a better, safer future for us all. Kweli opens his essay noting that "it's important to reflect on the extent to which racism is indoctrinated, institutionalized and entrenched in our economic system, in our hospitals, in our courts, in our schools, in our prisons and elsewhere."

The greatest problem, however, in Kweli's view is the virulent prison-industrial complex and its bias toward locking up, terrorizing and, as in the case of Kalief Brown, murdering them without ever administering a lethal injection. The overriding white supremacy of America's courts and prison system criminalizes black lives, Kweli writes:

To me, the prison industrial complex is the most dangerous pinnacle of racism. If we could get rid of the prison system, that would go a long way in tapping into the thought process that shapes the nation's negative perceptions of black men.

Numerous avenues for making real progress are shouted out in the essay, including both the Advancement Project and Dream Defenders, which Kweli himself avidly supports. But great strides can still be made in hip-hop, the MC asserts; the Mic essay calls out the youngest generation of rap stars (and Young Thug specifically) as being politically apathetic and untrue to the socially strident origins of the genre they enjoy and profit from. Kweli calls for the erasure of all distance between artists and the community that supplies them with fans and income. "One of the most important things artists can do to be a part of the solution," he writes "is to remove the false division that exists between themselves and the community, and instead view themselves as simply members of their community, members with a large platform."

As the essay concludes, Kweli's language becomes hopefuly--he notes that American culture and, specifically, hip-hop does have a great opportunity at the moment to offer engaged, thoughtful role models for not just listeners, but community figures across society. It's a fantastic, ultimately uplifting piece of work and you should absolutely take the time to read it in full over at Mic.