Longtime Kanye West fans wouldn’t be surprised to hear the larger-than-life rap maven throw around names like Dead Prez, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, but when ‘Ye recently credited those three acts with helping him to perfect his writing technique, he surely piqued the interest of his newer flock of followers.
West will drop his much-anticipated Yeezus album on Tuesday, and to ramp up the LP’s release, he granted a rare interview to The New York Times, revealing to them, “It wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write ‘All Falls Down’ in 15 minutes.”
It was a hell of a mention considering the first two songs that we’ve heard from Yeezus are titled “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead.” And when we spoke to Talib Kweli on Thursday (June 13), he told us the gesture was humbling. But the Brooklyn MC didn’t exactly take all of the credit for teaching Kanye you could make big hits with real messages.
“When he talks about being able to write a song like ‘All Falls Down’ in 15 minutes [because of] hanging out with people like myself and Dead Prez, he’s telling you more about himself than about us,” Talib said. “He’s telling you about his technique.”
This isn’t the first time Kanye has given props to Talib. Before the Chicago rapper officially signed with Jay-Z, it was Kweli who took West under his wing and brought the then-eager producer out on the road with him in the early 2000s, letting ‘Ye perform his untested raps. “I brought him on the road because he was nasty, he was nice with it,” Kweli explained. “Not only was he nice with it, he spent almost every waking moment practicing and trying to get better and looking for opinions on his music.”
Kweli said there wasn’t a specific moment or instance where Kanye tapped into his writing power; it was more that young Yeezy absorbed what was around, and at the time he happened to be around some of rap’s most progressive and well-skilled MCs.
“He wakes up, he writes rhymes, he says the rhyme to whoever wants to listen and he keeps improving on it. He asks for advice, that’s what he does,” Kwe continued. “He always strives to be the best and to him it is about technique.”