Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN invite two of New York’s finest to the set, as rapper Talib Kweli returns for his latest appearance with legendary producer Diamond D in tow. Hailing from Brooklyn and The Bronx, respectively, during the ‘90s, the two both established themselves as purists and skilled practitioners of their craft, with Diamond gaining fanfare on the strength of his lauded debut, Stunts, Blunts and Hip-Hop, in 1993, while Kweli caught fire alongside Mos Def with their ‘98 joint effort, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star.
Since then, each have released various solo and collaborative efforts, waving the flag for boom-bap and lyrical enthusiasts. After years of working together, Kweli and Diamond D recently unleashed Gotham, the pair’s collaborative album.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Talib Kweli and Diamond D “Drink Champs’” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. Talib Kweli On Recording A Joint Album With Diamond D
Earlier this year, Kweli and Diamond D melded their talents together for the collaborative album to strong reviews. “Me and Diamond D have been working together on his last couple of albums,” the Brooklynite shares. “The Diam Piece albums, so we have a great working relationship. He’s one of the first known, famous artists to get to sort of take me under his wing. So, when he did my show, Peoples Party, he had sent me a bunch of tracks and to show him some love and respect, I just busted on all of ‘em. I was just like, ‘Let me rap on every track and he flew in town the next day, and I played it for him. But, I didn’t realize it was the makings of an album until I seen his response to it.”
2. Fat Joe On Diamond D Saving His Life
Many rap fans may associate Fat Joe with his rap crew, Terror Squad, however, his introduction to the rap game came through members of The Bronx based collective Diggin in the Crates, whom Joe says gave him an escape from the streets and a new lease on life. “Diamond D saved my life,” the “All the Way Up” rapper reveals via FaceTime. “We knew each other since kids and Diamond told me one day, ‘Yo, Joe, everything you do in the streets, you gotta put it in the raps or you gonna die out here. You’re gonna go to jail.’ And if it wasn’t for that speech he gave me, I never would’ve really took rap serious and never would’ve rapped.”
3. Talib Kweli On How Success Affected Kanye West and Dave Chappelle
Given his longtime friendships with Kanye West and Dave Chappelle, Kweli is as qualified as anyone to give insight into their respective personalities. “That’s a very interesting point because the fact is you’re breathing very rare air,” Kweli says in response to N.O.R.E. acknowledging Kanye’s reported billionaire status. “And only certain people are able to exist in that stratosphere. It’s almost like being out of space. The reason why Dave Chappelle is so interesting — I don’t think he’s a billionaire, I don’t wanna discuss his finances — but everyone knows he gets his bread. The reason he’s so interesting is ‘cause he’s able to get that amount of bread, but still seem like he’s one of us and he’s the exception to the rule. Kanye, I talk with him about that Trump stuff... all through while he was doing it. And what’s interesting about Kanye is it’s hard to talk to someone, a self-made man. Self-made from the bottom, who made it. Who’s gonna tell him what to do?”
4. Diamond D On His Transition From DJ to Producer
Known for his prowess as a boardsman and understated ability as a lyricist, Diamond D reveals he actually got his start behind the turntables before evolving into his own as a producer. “I was a DJ, first,” he says. “I started off as a DJ, like most producers...and then from there, I got into the production and then it was just gradual. I’m hanging around Lord Finesse, The Brand Nubians when they were recording their first album. So I’m around Puba, he’s on fire and the shit just rubbed off. And a situation opened up, I got offered a deal and I was like, ‘OK.’ I just took the shit.”
5. Diamond D On His Desire To Participate In A Verzuz Battle
In light of the epic Verzuz matchups between iconic rap producers like DJ Premier and RZA, Diamond D says he wouldn’t mind testing his proverbial sword against the likes of Alchemist and Large Professor, both of whom were suggested by N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN as worthy opponents. “I’d go against anybody,” the Bronx native declares. “I’d go against Buck[wild], Buck is family, but just on some celebration shit. That would be fly. Pete Rock, that would be dope, too. Anybody from the mid-’90s to now, who’s been doing it that long...”
6. Talib Kweli On Russell Simmons’ Sexual Assault Allegations
An awkward exchange between N.O.R.E., media personality and cultural commentator Marc Lamont Hill, and famed music mogul Russell Simmons on a previous “Drink Champs” episode revived the conversation surrounding Simmons’ alleged sexual misconduct, which was detailed in the 2020 documentary “On The Record.” When revisiting the topic, Kweli argues that the Def Jam founder should have an opportunity to speak his piece and be judged accordingly after the fact. “I think it’s about personal responsibility,” the “Get By” rapper offers. “There’s some women who’s like, ‘Russell didn’t do nothing wrong.’ There’s some women that’s like, ‘He’s a rapist’ ...Russell is Russell Simmons. That’s Russell Rush. Like, we can’t erase what he did in hip hop, but because of what he’s done in hip hop, because of what he’s done for the community, he deserves to have his voice heard. Now, what he says with his voice, we’ll have to judge on our own, but those women deserve to have their voice heard, too.”
7. N.O.R.E. On Russell Simmons Brokering Peace Between Himself and Hot 97
Capone-N-Noreaga’s involvement in the infamous 2001 shooting outside New York City radio station Hot 97 had serious implications including prison time for Capone and the group’s music being banned from the station’s airwaves indefinitely. However, while N.O.R.E. credits Simmons with helping him and Capone get their music back on the radio, he makes it clear that he’s on the side of the women who’ve come forward with allegations against him. “When that Hot 97 shootout happened and they banned us, they banned us immediately,” N.O.R.E. recalls. “They pulled every record from Capone-N-Noreaga to Noreaga to Thugged Out to The Firm. Whatever record I was on, they pulled it. You now who got me back on the radio? It was Russell Simmons, and he was there for me at a time when I needed him. And when it came time for me to show back that favor, I stood with the women. I wanna make that clear, I stood with the women.”
8. Talib Kweli On Appearing On A Tribe Called Quest’s Last Album
A direct descendant of the musical aesthetic of the Native Tongues collective, one of the most fulfilling achievements of Kweli’s career was his appearance on “The Killing Season” from We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest’s reported final album. The former Rawkus standout shares the backstory on how that collaboration came to be with the assistance of a certain N.W.A. member. “Q-Tip was in Brooklyn to see Ice Cube perform,” Kweli explains. “He was performing at AfroPunk, a couple of blocks from where I stayed at. And Q-Tip and me had decided we were gonna work on a record, we had been talking about this song. You know how Tip is, we’ll talk about a record for two years. I’m trying to get this record, [then] Phife passed away. So, in my mind, I’m like, ‘Fuck that record, I’m never asking for that record again. If I hit bro, it’s just on some, ‘What’s up?’ cause the friendships and brotherhood is more important than us getting in the studio. And when I seen him, it was the first time I’d seen him since Phife passed and he’s like, ‘Yo, what happened to that song? We gonna do the song?’ I was like, ‘Hey, bro, we can do the song [if you want]... When I went over to the crib, it was him and Jarobi there, and they’re listening to songs [that] him and Phife did that nobody had heard. And they’re listening, Tip is mixing records and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m dropping A Tribe Called Quest album.’ I’m on the last album. I just came through his house every day to watch him work on this record. But yeah, that’s one of my proudest moments.”
9. Talib Kweli On Publishing A Book Deal During The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the music industry was massive, as a lack of revenue from touring put a major dent in many artists’ income streams. While Kweli was affected, he credits a book deal with helping him stay afloat throughout those lean months. “For me, it annihilated my business,” the rapper admits. “Because my entire business model was based around touring. So, I’m very blessed that I found certain situations and I figured some shit out. This is a good opportunity to plug my book; I had a book deal, I wrote my book. I had been trying to get my book out, but when the pandemic hit, I focused on that. It’s called ‘Vibrate Higher,’ it’s getting rave reviews. It’s my autobiography mixed in with social commentary and the history of the hip hop that I was listening to at the time. People don’t like to hear artists or celebrities complain because we chose this, but it’s been very hard to figure it out. But, I’ve been blessed to be able to pivot in the way I have.”