On the latest episode of People’s Party With Talib Kweli, El-P tells Kweli that he feels obligated to address race as a white rapper, saying, “I’m white, but I’m not an expert on being white.” While the producer/rapper/label owner says he didn’t want his personal narrative to focus on his ethnicity or his struggles to get into hip-hop because of it, that he has tried to address some serious issues as a member of Run The Jewels with Killer Mike.
The example that the two rap pioneers specifically highlight is the Run The Jewels song “Early,” in which El-P raps from the perspective of a disaffected “ally” as a way to show the disconnect between some hip-hop fans and the plight of Black Americans going through the actual struggles depicted in hip-hop. Kweli credits this perspective to El-P’s upbringing on pro-Black artists like Public Enemy and BDP and his association with Zack de la Rocha and Killer Mike.
“If I hadn’t had rap music,” El-P admits, “I don’t know, as a middle-class white kid, how long it would have taken me to be exposed to the truth. It helped in the lifting of the veil.”
“Rap has done that for a lot [of people],” Kweli agrees. El-P wonders, “How people can be fans of hip-hop… but if empathy and connection don’t come with it, what’s the g*ddamn point?”
Elsewhere in the interview, El-P explains his “noisy” production style, his come-up through the mid-’90s, New York City underground alongside Kweli and Rawkus Records, and how Killer Mike helped him clarify his own participation in the political process. Check it out in full above.