Last Thursday FDU welcomed poet and journalist Quincy Troupe and rapper Talib Kweli for WAMFEST’s grand finale event. The event, which was a celebration of both men’s works and inspirations, filled up Lenfell Hall from front to back with students and faculty alike.
Troupe, 72, has had the luxury of being able to meet legends like Jean-Paul Sartre, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis during his lifetime.
According to his website, quincytroupe.com, he is “an awarding-winning author of eight volumes of poetry, three children’s books, and six non-fiction works.”
Kweli, 36, has worked with stars like Mos Def and Kanye West. According to host Wesley Stace, Kweli is “one of the most important and admired artists of his generation.”
Troupe and Kweli were both influenced by related genres of music, jazz and hip-hop. Both artists agreed that jazz influenced the early years of hip-hop when Kweli’s career took off.
“I grew up listening to music,” said Troupe. “I grew up with the music. All kinds of music.”
One of his greatest influences was Miles Davis, a jazz musician about whom Troupe wrote a biography and memoir, “Miles: The Autobiography of Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe” and “Miles and Me.”
“Miles was the one that changed the way I listened to music,” said Troupe. “I was 15 years old. And so from that point it was, you know, all kinds of music. But, Miles was a big influence on my life.”
Kweli also was greatly influenced by music. He explains how, growing up, his parents, both professors, filled the house with vinyl records of all genres. But even outside of his home, music was everywhere for Kweli.
“Everything was hip-hop. So I got accustomed to that,” he said. “And then my worlds were colliding because the trend in hip-hop was to be cultured, was to go back in your past and that worked well with how you grew up. So, hip-hop that was culturally relevant made me love the art in hip-hop.”
Aside from being influenced by music, both artists have influenced each other. Kweli has read Troupe’s biography on Miles Davis.
He explained how Troupe’s book made him better comprehend the connection between jazz and hip-hop.
“I read the book because I knew I was a fan of ‘Kind of Blue’ and I knew that some records had been sampled using Miles,” said Kweli. “My father was a real ‘Blue Train’ Miles Davis fan. And that’s all I knew going in. But what I learned was the connection between, an even deeper connection between, jazz and the music I was into.
“Because hip-hop at the time was being vilified and talked about in a negative way that some of the imagery, some of the negativity [that hip-hop] was being held responsible [for] was unfair. But, I felt like these were just young artists that expressed themselves and the difference was we express ourselves with words… When I read Miles’ book I was like ‘Man, if Miles Davis came out now, he would be a gangster rapper.’ He would be hard. He would be just uncompromising and I made that connection.”
Troupe and Kweli shared with the audience their works.
Troupe read two of his poems, each of which he performed with speed and enthusiasm.
One poem was a tribute to basketball star Magic Johnson while the other, titled “Slipping and Sliding Over Syllables,” was his own reflection of the at-the-time, up-and-coming genre of hip-hop.
Kweli recited from memory two of his raps, “Distractions” and “Lonely People.”
Kweli explained in detail the origins of “Lonely People,” which was influenced by The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” The rap took Kweli about 20 minutes to write after a night at a Florida club called Opium. There, Kweli saw the loneliness on people’s faces even in the middle of a crowded club. The irony inspired him to write “Lonely People,” which he described as “real organic.”
At the end of the event, Stace thanked both artists for coming to FDU and moderated a question-and-answer session between the artists and their audience.