If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be
Lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did 5 mill' - I ain't been rhyming like Common since
Talib Kweli and Common Sense (a.k.a. Common) are “conscious” rappers (though both swear off the title) from Brooklyn and Chicago, respectively. They’re considered lyrically talented but are not commercially successful
Jay is saying that he could put together fancy verbiage and complicated rhymes like theirs if he wanted to, but there’s no money to be made doing that; ever since Jay sold 5 million records, he realized that he should keep things on the stupid side
Hov also explains the Talib Kweli reference in his book, Decoded:
Kweli is a great MC — as is Common — and they’ve both carved out impressive careers without big records. They’re great technical MCs, but there is a difference between being a great technician and a great songwriter. I deeply respect their craft, but even the most dazzling lyrical display won’t translate to a wide audience unless it’s matched with a big song."
Kweli responded to this on Ghetto Show by saying “If lyrics sold then truth be told/I’d probably be just as rich and famous as Jay-Z”
ALSO: Talib Kweli’s last name means “true” in Swahili which flows well with “truth” and “truthfully” in the lines before and after.
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