On the heels of the news that Post Malone has the second highest-selling album of 2019 with the No. 1-charting Hollywood’s Bleeding, Talib Kweli and his latest People’s Party With Talib Kweli guest Murs explain just how big of an accomplishment it is for a white rapper to secure that sort of success. In the course of their discussion, they end up crediting an unexpected name with opening doors for rappers like Post Malone and Macklemore: El-P, with whom both Kweli and Murs worked before he eventually linked up with Killer Mike to form Run The Jewels.
“It’s something that the Post Malones and [Lil Pump] have no idea… It was a lot harder to be a white rapper when we were coming up, especially in Brooklyn or Oakland,” Murs says, providing an example using one of his own crewmates. “[Living Legends member] Grouch went through a lot. People used to throw pennies at him just ’cause he was white.”
Kweli offers a theory for why El-P was more readily accepted during the ’90s, coming up alongside his original group Company Flow and as an independent label owner with Def Jux. “He didn’t compromise and he didn’t try to be Black. He was like, ‘I’m a white kid from Brooklyn.’… It was very refreshing.”
“They used to [struggle],” Murs agrees, “They don’t have to anymore because of El-P.” As Murs says, “It’s easier to be white in corporate America than it is to be white in hip-hop.” The two — along with producer Jasmin Leigh — also add a layer of nuance by recognizing that once white rappers achieve success, they tend to see more of it because of American societal expectations, providing examples like Eminem, Macklemore, and Beastie Boys as white rappers who eventually saw stratospheric levels of success both despite and because they were white.
There’s even more food for thought throughout the interview, which touches on Murs’ upbringing in South Central surrounded by gangbang culture, the widely disparate perceptions of “conscious rap,” the success — and eventual downfall — of Murs’ Paid Dues festival, and why Murs once zapped Kweli with a cattle prod. Check out the full episode above and subscribe to People’s Party With Talib Kweli on Apple Music, Spotify, and/or Youtube.
People’s Party is a weekly interview show hosted by Talib Kweli with big-name guests exploring hip-hop, culture, and politics.