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NPR: Let me rephrase then, because I want to know what you think are the preoccupations of hip-hop these days? What are the things that you think the music is speaking to?
Kweli: As far as mainstream hip-hop? Molly. Sex, drugs. We’re in our rock ‘n’ roll phase, you know? Sex, drugs and party, party, party. That’s where it’s at in the mainstream. But you’d be fooled if you only got your hip-hop from the mainstream. One of the biggest hip-hop artists in the country right now is Macklemore, who doesn’t do anything like that. Macklemore seems like he’s coming from a sort of white, or suburban perspective, whereas I was coming from more of an inner-city perspective.
But the things that move people are not just found in the mainstream culture. So when we talk about hip-hop in general, hip-hop is preoccupied with life. You could find a hip-hop song dealing with any subject matter, but the stuff that’s being promoted and marketed and the corporations are spending major money on is the decadent stuff, which is mostly about drug use and sex. That’s why people get a skewed perspective of hip-hop. Hip-hop fans themselves aren’t even listening to that stuff. Most hip-hop fans aren’t listening to mainstream hip-hop. It’s people from other walks of life and genres who don’t have anything invested in hip-hop, who are pop listeners or who listen to whatever’s trendy, that are driving that. But when that stuff is not trendy anymore, you’ll start to see clearer what the subject matters of hip-hop are and how diverse they are.