Renowned hip-hop artist and social activist Talib Kweli is just one of many who have an opinion on Kanye West‘s recent explosion of controversy and enlightenment via social media. The two artists have worked together since 2001.

During a candid interview with Esquire, Kweli shared his take on West’s current ideologies from endorsing Donald Trump and Candace Owens, to saying slavery was a choice. He also talks current collaborations with West, their personal texts, knowing the real Kanye West and more.

Here’s a list of takeaways from the conversation.

On what his relationship has been like with Kanye in recent years…

TK: “I did spend time in his studio earlier in the year, and we worked on a few songs together. Kanye is someone who is super famous—he’s in the stratosphere. I wouldn’t say I’m in his inner circle, but he started his career with me, and if I really need to I can get in touch with him.”

On having thought about overcoming Kanye’s endorsement of Trump in 2016, and calling ‘Ye out saying, “[You] added greatness to my life. But lifting Trump up kills us. Come home.”…

TK: “I posted that in public because Kanye had reached out to Jay-Z publicly in a similar fashion. As a friend, I want to respect the friendship, and I tend to not admonish my friends in public. But since he reached out to Jay-Z in a similar way, it seemed like a way to reach out to him. That was a time when I didn’t even have a number for him. When I said that on Twitter, I still felt like that was important to be said. When I finally got a number for him, he had deleted the Trump tweets, so I assumed that he’d changed his mind. But obviously he did not.”

On right-wing conservative and activist Candace Owens…

TK: “I had never really heard of her until she came after me on Twitter in January. She was critical of things I was saying on Twitter. When Candace Owens came after me and I dismissed her, I was attacked on Twitter by racist Candace Owens fans. I had death threats, I had people calling me “nigger,” I had people calling me “monkey.”

On texting Kanye about the comment he made saying, “I like how Candace Owens thinks.”…

TK: “I texted him and explained to him who she was and how she comes after his friends. And his response to me was, ‘You know I love Donald Trump.'”

On Kanye’s response and comment, saying he loves Donald Trump…

TK: “That was a very disappointing and hurtful response. He’s a grown man he has a right to say that. What was disappointing and hurtful about it was that I didn’t mention Donald Trump. But the fact that he needed to express his love for Donald Trump but not express any love for me was hurtful. So, when a few days later, Ebro said, “I had a conversation with Kanye; he said, ‘I love Donald Trump,'” he had said the same thing to me.

On working with Kanye West now…

TK: “The stuff that we had been working on was open-ended, and it was organic—who knows if we’ll ever get back to working on that. I would find it difficult working with Kanye on music right now with his position on Trump and Candace Owens and his repeating white supremacist lines on black-on-black crime and “slavery is a choice.” I love him as a man, and I love him as an artist, but I would find it difficult co-signing him right now until he walks some of that stuff back.”

On his initial response to Kanye’s “slavery is a choice” comment…

TK: “I gasped audibly. I was in a room full of people, and they were like, “What happened? Who died?” Honestly, here’s the thing: Kanye started out with “I like the way Candace Owens thinks,” then he went to “I love Donald Trump,” then he went to saying “Lincoln was a Republican,” then he went to black-on-black crime and saying, falsely, that Chicago is the murder capital of the world. Then he went to “slavery is a choice.” This is a radicalization. These are all white supremacist talking points.

There are people in Kanye’s life who are leading him down this path because they have an agenda. When he said, “Slavery is a choice,” he meant it. I think when Van Lathan debunked him and he got all the backlash, he had to walk back on that statement. Even trying to clean it up doesn’t do anything for me, but I’m glad he at least tried. That shows the caring-about-black-people Kanye is still in there somewhere. I think he made an off-the-cuff statement based on what the people around him are telling him.

On thoughts about resolving Kanye’s personal political opinions with his music…

TK: “Kanye West was the guy who used to do things that were obnoxious and then turn around and apologize for them—and apologize properly—and really understand what he did wrong. He’s a guy who is constantly evolving. That’s why I can’t give up on him. I know he’s smart enough to know better, but he just doesn’t know better right now. Over time, there’s a great chance to realize how hurtful he’s being right now, and he’ll reverse some of it.”

On the possibility that Kanye’s recent actions could be some sort of performance art thing…

TK: “Yeah, I just don’t think that holds him accountable for what he’s doing. People have mentioned Andy Kaufman and Joaquin Phoenix with the rapper thing. I don’t think this is that well thought out—when you see him say he doesn’t know enough to be a conservative and when he’s sharing his conversations. He’s a sponge for information, and he’s trying to take in information. I think he’s getting information from very poor, misinformed sources. We’re used to seeing Kanye be a leader, and right now he’s following.”

On Kanye having a social responsibility about what he says or believes since he’s got clout…

TK: “He absolutely does—but if he doesn’t know it, it doesn’t help any of us. He’s fighting to be Kanye, he’s fighting to be free. He’s fighting to not be attached to what people’s idea of black thought is. When you do that and you’re not careful, it puts a target on the rest of us because they weaponize you, and they use you against the people you claim to love.”

On the danger of ideas like this coming from someone like Kanye…

TK: “The examples I see: John Legend texts Kanye, then Kanye shares his texts, and the next day the NRA trolled John Legend. The NRA can’t be trolling John Legend. We can’t be allowing that. The NRA is an organization that we should all stand up against as people of color, as compassionate people, as people against mass shootings. I think that Kanye is not realizing that he’s putting a target on John Legend’s back.

When he uplifts Candace Owens, and Candace Owens fans are calling me a nigger and a monkey, he’s putting a target on my back. When Trump goes to a room full of people and asks if there are any Hispanics here, and he gets boos, then says, “Well, Kanye gets it,” he’s putting a target on Hispanics. When Trump is talking in front of the NRA and says, “Well, Kanye gets me, and Kanye is bringing all these black people to me,” he’s putting a target on their backs.”

On his thoughts about someone critiquing Kanye that would have to come from someone closer to his level…

TK: “Yeah, I’m not on his level. I can’t buy the things Kanye can buy. But if there’s someone who thinks like me who can afford to speak to him, then I think he would take it more seriously.”

On Kanye’s purpose and end game with all of his current reasoning…

TK: “I think he just wants to be loved. The underrepresented piece to all of this is that Kanye told Ebro that Obama didn’t invite him to the White House. When he did that Taylor Swift thing, Obama called him a jackass on a hot mic. If you’re Kanye West from Chicago, that’s got to hurt. The President of the United States, a black man from your hood, calling you a jackass because you were standing up for Beyoncé? That’s gotta hurt.”

On the real Kanye, and who is this version that the public is seeing…

TK: “The real Kanye is the one who said he didn’t have enough information to speak on conservatives vs. liberals. That was a moment of the real Kanye. When Van Lathan debunked him and he said, “I’m sorry that I hurt you,” that’s the real Kanye—the one that does care, the one that can remove himself and care about other people in the room and the country. I know that guy is real. His music, the things he’s said… He’s one of the first rappers to say he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality—these things that he’s done show me he’s that guy. But he’s isolated in many ways even from his own self.”

For the full detailed interview, head on over to Esquire.

Also, in case you missed it, Kanye West wants to venture into architecture with “YEEZY Home.”

Words by Renz Ofiaza
Staff Writer

scribbling by day, architect by night