As promised, Talib releases his new video today, but he also has a personal story to share and how the song came about and what it means to him:
A little less a year ago, I got a beat from one of my favorite producers, Oh No, that I felt would be a perfect sound bed for the album I was working on, Prisoner Of Conscious. As I played the beat over and over trying to write lyrics, I kept finding myself distracted. By the TV, by twitter, by trivial things. I realized then that the beat was asking me to write about Distractions.
Beats talk to me. They tell me what to rap about, they suggest a guest for the song. One of the things I was distracted by was the news coming from Tahrir Square last year. The Arab Spring was unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. Beginning with a vegetable cart owner named Mohammed Bouazizi setting himself on fire in Tunisia to protest general unfair treatment, the Arab Spring spread like wildfire to Sudan and then to Egypt, as thousands of protestors occupied Tahrir Square to call for corrupt president Hosni Mubarak to step down.
The first line that I wrote for my song Distractions was, “they say it ain’t about the spoils of war, but turn around and tell you how much more the oil will cost.” This was inspired by the Arab Spring.
Fast forward to September, 2011. Occupy Wall Street exploded into the collective consciousness of the world, but it started right here in New York City. I didn’t understand that this protest was something that was ongoing at first, so I did not pay much attention in the beginning. However, when I saw my contemporaries like Lupe Fiasco bringing blankets and Immortal Technique making multiple trips, I knew this was something I had a responsibility to be involved in.
I went to Zucotti Park the day after I arrived back in NY. I traveled with Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny from Citizen Radio, and res, my partner in Idle Warship. What I saw made me proud of my hometown. Sure, I probably saw some homeless people. If the homeless aren’t in the 99 percent, who is? What was more prevalent was the organization, the sense of community. I saw students, musicians, wall street types, blue collar types, older activists and fresh faced newbies. It was the most democratic, American thing I had ever witnessed. And to think, it was inspired by the Arab Spring, just like my song!
I was asked to address the crowd at the General Assembly, which is a daily gathering to discuss the issues at hand and how the people can move forward. Even though I am accustomed to being an entertainer, the thought of addressing people who were literally giving everything they had to this cause was a bit overwhelming. It was in that moment that I made the connection between my song Distractions and OWS. I sort of sputtered out Distractions, because this was the first time I was ever saying it out loud.
The response to it has been nice, largely because a clip of it has made the rounds online. However, it wasn’t me kicking a verse that resonated the most with the people actually at Zucotti Park, it is what I said from my heart. When I stopped rapping and addressed the people directly, I had, in my opinion, a bigger impact. It showed me the humanity of the movement. We were one, stripped of our titles. I strive to be a great artist. But I also strive to be a greater man.
I am not here to convince you one way or the other about Occupy Wall Street. I know how I feel about the movement and that’s good enough for me. I was so inspired by what those people are doing for our future that I wanted to celebrate them in the video for Distractions. I had some reservations about it. I did not want to appear like I was capitalizing. I hope that people see this video as I intended it, as a love letter to the Occupy Movement everywhere. Here it is, enjoy!
For more information on Occupy Wall Street, including how you can participate, please visit http://occupywallst.org
One love to my good friend Darryl Phillips, who always comes through for me and speaks truth to power.
- Talib Kweli