More or Less

Jose Vilson Jose

talibkweli2.jpg Many of you are familiar with Talib Kweli the artist. Since the days of Black Star, he’s blossomed into a premier face for hip-hop music. Unfortunately, because of the topics he discusses (politics, hip-hop, and urban community issues are among his favorites), he’s often type casted for a niche audience. What that usually means is that artists him, Immortal Technique, Mos Def, Common, and Pharoahe Monch get put in a little slot, even when their music has the ability to reach more audiences. In this day and age where hits are no longer made, but manufactured, it’s hard for artists like him to get their shine.

What it does mean for people who like their artistry is that we have to invest in their product and be active participants in their growth. Acts like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Gwen Stefani, and Fergie, regardless of whether they actually craft their own music or rely on formulas for their success, already have machines behind them that will force listeners to hear their product. We don’t have to like their songs for them to be played a million times on the radio; they’re still going to get played. This is also not to say that they don’t work hard, but in Talib Kweli’s case, he doesn’t give the radio a diet Talib, if you know what I mean.

With the recent payola scandals (which were fairly obvious for decades now) and the mainstreaming of illegal downloading, it becomes ever more pressing for us as consumers of music to cast in our monies to artists we actually want to see succeed. I personally buy CDs from artists who have either come out with a very good project as of late (Linkin Park) or who have been consistent enough over their career that it inspires confidence in the product I’m buying (Janet Jackson). What this also means is that I’m also doing my “research” on the albums before I get them, something the music industry heads can’t understand. Many of us don’t download because we’re pirates; it’s because we’re tired of getting screwed over by a 15-song album whose quality is worth just 2.

You see, if they’re going to keep allowing cookie cutter crap to invade our ears and minds, then people will continue to download on a regular basis. As recently as 2004, I felt the music industry would remember how cutting edge music transformed the landscape for so many of these artists, when they gave breathing room to underground artists to get some shine on the major music stations. Now, because of the lack of variance amongst these radio and TV stations, it seems that we’ll never get the opportunity for these new energies to hit our eardrums.

This is all to say that, if you enjoy an artist, please support them, not just through CDs, which has gone the way of presidential voting, but also through concerts and word-of-mouth. BET’s 106 and Park was NEVER about the viewers’ choice, and radio’s still mired in money politics. I know I’ll be buying Eardrum (8/21/07), because more or less, if I want to see Talib succeed, I need to let the majors know he’s still relevant to people like me and you. More or less, if we want to see more of these artists, we need to support, or we stand to lose them all.

jose, who’s having the best summer in quite a while