Rappers Fiend and Talib Kweli were among the participants at the recent GRAMMY GPS: A Road Map For Today's Music Pro hosted by The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter. During the event, Fiend and Kweli participated in an exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, discussing memorable GRAMMY moments and the difference between commerce and art, among other topics.
"Taylor Swift had performed like 5 feet away from me, in the middle of the [51st Annual] GRAMMYs [in 2009], and I thought that was amazing," recalled Fiend. "[I was at] this colossal-sized show of American heritage, and this huge artist [was] performing so elegantly. It was so nice."
Born Ricky Jones in New Orleans, Fiend released his debut album, Won't Be Denied, in 1995. He subsequently signed with Master P's No Limit label and appeared on the rapper's Top 20 hit "Make 'Em Say Uhh!" Several albums followed, including 1998's There's One In Every Family, which reached No. 8 on the Billboard 200, 1999's Street Life, which topped Billboard's R&B Albums chart, and 2006's The Addiction. Most recently, in 2011 Fiend released the mixtape The Sweetest Hangover.
"We're not in an industry that's flush with cash, so there's no more room for fluff," said Kweli. "You really shouldn't be doing [music] unless you really care about it. … The people who are going to have longevity are going to be the ones who don't concentrate on commerce [and] concentrate more on art."
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Kweli began his career as a member of the rap group Black Star, which also featured Mos Def and Hi-Tek. Kweli's debut solo album, Quality, was released in 2002 and peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard 200. The Beautiful Struggle followed in 2004 and peaked at No. 14. His most recent release, 2011's Gutter Rainbows, peaked at No. 29. Kweli's new album, Prisoner Of Conscious, is due Oct. 22 and features collaborations with Busta Rhymes, Melanie Fiona, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, and Nelly, among others.