El-P Talks About The Obligation White Rappers Have To Address Race On ‘People’s Party With Talib Kweli’

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.

‘People’s Party’ is a weekly interview show hosted by Talib Kweli with big-name guests exploring hip-hop, culture, and politics. Subscribe via Apple, Spotify, or YouTube.