Ta-Nehisi Coates on How Rap Influences His Writing | Extended Interview | DESUS & MERO

I feel like I’m getting
that ’90s underground hip hop, you know, sort of
straight from the sewer. My guy. All right, all right, all
right, all right, all right. Yo. Welcome to the most hood
interview you’ve ever done. You’re nervous, huh? The elevator is very thick,
you know what I’m saying? From the 1900s. Nothing but
illustrious guests. You know what I’m saying?
DESUS & MERO in the building. We have the one and
only literary god, you know what I’m saying? G-A-W-D– Ta-Nehisi Coates. That’s right, New York Times
bestseller, National Book Award winner, BFF of Oprah. You know what I’m saying? – Is that true?
– That’s not true. DESUS: Are you– are you–
– That’s not true. DESUS: Oh, I heard–
– That’s not true. Clear the rumor.
Now, I heard it at a barbershop. I heard you and Oprah just be
chillin’, like you call her, like, yo.
– You chillin’. [INTERPOSING VOICES] TA-NEHISI COATES: Not at all. Is that not the case? TA-NEHISI COATES: Not at all. Yo, where brunch at? Yo, yo, bring
Stedman this time. Yeah, no, no. When Oprah calls, I answer. Oh, you got to. TA-NEHISI COATES:
That’s the relationship. How many rings? Is it, like, once?
– Immediate. DESUS: Immediately?
– Immediate, immediate. MERO: What, you just feel it?
Are you like, Oprah’s calling? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I can sense it. When you answer the
phone call to Oprah, how do you– like, you gotta– you can’t act, like, starstruck. So you gotta act cool. That’s right. It’s like, you’ve got
to strike a happy medium somewhere in there.
– So how– how do you answer? – Hello?
– This is– Hello? See, if you saw
me, you would know. Oh, OK. But the voice is, hello? And then she like, hellooo. Hellooo! Whole thing, whole thing. When she picked it for
a book club, she just– hi, this is Oprah Winfrey. But it was, like,
you know I mean? A majesty of a voice,
you know what I’m saying? That was different. You just was at
the Apollo Theater? I was, I was. You have to get blacker
than that, my brother. I mean, it was the thing. I don’t think they
filmed, either. It was– it was a thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DESUS: How was that? It was– it was incredible. I mean, I have her at
the Apollo, you know. I’ve been at the
Apollo a few times. I got a connection up there. You know, and even after
we knew she was going to do what she
did with the book, we didn’t know that she
would do that event. But she basically
said, yeah, you know, opening night at the Apollo. I’m in. So it was incredible. All right. Is your new book “The
Water Dancer,” right? Yeah, “The Water
Dancer,” yeah. DESUS: How did Oprah
get involved in that? I don’t know. See, like, I turned
in the book, and then a whole kind of mechanism
machinery happens, you know what I mean? And then I heard, you
know, through the grapevine it might be in consideration. And then, you know,
I got a text like, yo, make sure you– you answer
your phone at 10 o’clock. You gonna get a call. You better be there. That’s what we did. We understand,
’cause we got an email. And it was like,
hey, do you guys want to be on Oprah’s Book Club?
And I was like– And he was like,
Oprah has chosen you. And we were like, I bet. Yeah, no doubt.
– Wow, wow. Yes it was. We in there. I’m in the store just
buying 40 copies like, yeah. Like, yeah, we going
platinum in the hood. I’m giving them out when
people get off the train, like, I said, hey, de lo mio. Just read it. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Read it my brother. You know what I’m saying?
– When your name– when people think
of your name, you think of very serious topics
like reparations and things. This is not that– I mean, it is a serious
book, but it’s– TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah,
no, but it’s different. It’s fictional?
Or non-fictional? It’s fiction.
There you go. It’s fiction, it’s fiction. It’s a novel.
It’s a first novel. MERO: It’s like a
departure from the– It’s a huge departure. But I’ve actually working
on it for 10 years. You know what I’m saying? So even though I was publishing
all of that other stuff– actually you know, “Between
the World,” “The Case for Reparations”, all that– I was working on
this before that. DESUS: Oh, wow. Yeah, so I just kind of–
you know, I had it cooking. And you know, whenever I, you
know, got done with one thing, I would go, you know,
and work on that. And man, I’m just
happy it’s out. This is like off my back,
you know what I’m saying? It’s like having a kid.
You know what I mean? The kid’s out the house now. You know what I mean? Was it just always,
like the story you had? Just drop you off at
college and go, peace! Peace out, peace
out, peace out. Here’s a Target gift
card motherfucker! Bout to go turn his
bedroom into a study. Outta here with you. But the book– OK, it
takes place during slavery. It takes place during slavery. But there’s like
mythological– there’s, like– so how
important– you said you had this idea for 10 years? I was working on it
for 10 years, yeah. How did this even
come about, this story? I mean, my editor
was like, you should try a novel, basically. I mean, it really
was that simple. MERO: It be like that.
OK. I think you could
do this, you know. Oh, nice. And I don’t know, man. When I read novels, and when
I read novels, I was like, I don’t know how
anybody does this. And he was like, yeah, I think– I think you got it. And I basically had to
learn how to write a novel. So that’s why I took 10 years. You know what I mean? What’s the difference
between, like, writing this versus a
serious academic paper or, like, something
for “The Atlantic”? Aw, man. You know what it is? This feels a lot more
like being a kid. You know, it’s much more– I feel like, you know, my
roots always tell people. It’s comic books, Dungeons
and Dragons, and hip hop. Like, that’s, you know,
where I come from. That’s my creative process. Like your circular
Venn diagram. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Before it even gets to all
the historical and all this, like, if I had an aesthetic,
that’s what it would be. So this felt like
going back to that. You know what I’m saying? It was like, even
though it was hard, it was like playing
in a sandbox. You know what I mean? It’s all yours, you
know what I mean? You can make up stories
and make up things and go, you know, all sorts of ways. Whereas obviously when you write
nonfiction, this is what it is, man. You know, you don’t play
around with people’s lives. So it’s a totally
different thing. – Right.
– Got you. Your father was
an author, right? – My father was a publisher.
– Publisher. Yeah– is a publisher, yeah. OK, so you showed him book. And like, what’s the reaction? You know what’s funny, man? Like, he don’t universally
love everything I do. DESUS: Oh, really? No, no, no. In fact, nobody–
none of my people do. Like, none of the people you–
– That’s good, though. You don’t want people
going, this shit is fire. TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah, yeah. And then you go out
there, and then– Yo! You you know that shit
about reparations. Yo! – Fire!
– No, no, no. You don’t want that. You don’t want– because then
you go out and get embarrassed. Their job is to keep
you from embarrassing– Keep you humble. Yeah, exactly. But I think this is the one he
liked the most, which is weird, because I thought the more
serious stuff was the sort of stuff I was raised on– sort of thing I came up more. But this one he read,
and he just was like, yo, this this is it.
This is the one. Yeah. You think it was just
the simple fact that you– of that departure? And be like, yo,
my son, he writing all the– he write everything. I don’t know. He could write a motherfucking
cookbook if he wanted to. I’m– I’m– I’m shocked. I actually– I did not
expect that reaction. I can’t– you know, you can’t
protect your parents, man. DESUS: Yeah, you can’t.
MERO: Yeah, yeah. Never. Was that high praise
you wanted, right? Yeah, exactly. Exactly, exactly. Now, your mom used to make
you write essays as punishment? Yeah, if I, like, did
something in class– DESUS: Like, how long
essays we talk we talkin’? We talkin’ full essays?
A little paragraph? I mean, it was,
like, a paragraph. But if you, like, five
or six– six, I mean. That’s– that’s a lot.
– That’s a lot. That’s stressful. It’s stressful to
write a paragraph. But if, you know, I, you know,
did something in school– and you couldn’t just write
I’m sorry I did X, Y, and Z. It was, why did you do it? Were you thinking
about it at the time? Well, what kind
of stuff were you doing that you were writing? – Oh, I was terrible, dude.
– Oh, you was back in the day? Oh, yeah. No, I was– no, I
was notorious, man. Oh, yeah? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, like, you know
it would’ve been better if I had been a thug. But I wasn’t. Like, I was just notorious
in the classroom. So I’m not even kidding. I can’t even brag about it. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t– it’s
not like I got street cred out of it or anything. You got, like, some
kind of school cred? No, I got nothing.
Nothing. I was just a bad student. That’s really it. Ah. So was it a matter of,
like, yo, y’all not challenging me so I’m bored? Or is it a matter of,
like, man, the structure I don’t fuck with? I don’t know, dude. I just– I have tremendous
difficulty sitting in a chair and listening to somebody
talk for, like, an hour. Like, I just– I just never– You just don’t retain
anything the same? You just space out?
– I mean, no. My mind would just space out.
I would space out. I’m thinking about
something else. You know what I mean?
Totally, totally. I just– I have– in fact, when people come
to see me, I feel bad. I’m like, man– DESUS: ‘Cause you think
they’re doing the same thing? Yeah, I was just like, yo, I
could not come see this dude. Like, not– not when
I was a kid in, like– I would be struggling right now. I just– I had a hard time,
like learning that way. And it’s funny,
because even when I– when I went
to college, like, I would, like, cut class
and go to the library. You know what I mean?
‘Cause I like to read. I love to read it. But I don’t– I just– I don’t want you
telling me what to read. When to read it,
how to read it. TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah. Ah, ah– it just
makes my skin crawl. Telling me how to
interpret this shit? Yeah.
– No, no, no, no. Let me– let me find
it, you know, on my own. DESUS: You went
to Howard, right? – I did, yeah.
– Graduated? No, yeah. No, no. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. So I’m getting in the
habit of saying that. You know, I see how people end
up lying, you know what I mean? DESUS: One of those things
you gotta say once– Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[INTERPOSING VOICES] You liar! [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yeah, you were like,
oh, [BLATHERING] We ran out of money sophomore year–
– Right, right, right. – –you know, shit happens.
– Right, right, right. No I didn’t, I dropped out. I dropped out. [INTERPOSING VOICES] MERO: A successful
dropout gang, we out here. [LAUGHTER] But it’s bad, because
my son’s there now, right? And I can tell mentally,
he’s kind of like me. DESUS: Yeah! And you know, it’s like, oh,
it worked out fine for you. – Oh yeah!
– What you’re saying. Yeah, you have that–
you can’t be like, yo, I went through this, you got–
– Yeah, yeah, yeah. You went through this– TA-NEHISI COATES: You’re
good, you’re good. What’s the dad advice that
you give him on that tip? TA-NEHISI COATES:
You know, one thing I do tell him is he’s in a
very, very different situation than I was. And if somebody had said,
you don’t gotta pay tuition, and you ain’t going to have
no loans, I would’ve finished. Yeah? I definitely would have.
I was coming out of Baltimore. I was like– because
I would have been, I’m not going back to that.
– Right. Absolutely, you know? And I was scared of
hell of going back, you know what I mean? In a way that he just
ain’t, you know what I mean? DESUS: He don’t got that. He don’t got it. No, it’s a different thing. You ever think like,
damn, I should just like, cut him off so he has the like–
TA-NEHISI COATES: All the time. – Yeah?
– All the time. But you know what?
Like, that– Like with Chappelle’s kid,
where he just drops his son– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Oh, I think about it
all the time, you know? But the thing is, it’s actually
wild, because my dad, who was just hard as hell– what he
says to me– he said, listen, if there’s one thing I
wish I had have done, I wish I had been
more patient with you. It’s like, yo, how are you
telling me to be more patient with him, given how– but you
know, you’ve got to hear it, because it’s your dad,
you know what I’m saying? So I try to incorporate
that, and listen to that, and be easy. Hey, hindsight is 20/20. Like, you’re remembering
the childhood. He was remembering–
TA-NEHISI COATES: That’s right. And now he’s seeing
the grown man– TA-NEHISI COATES: That’s right.
– The finished product– TA-NEHISI COATES: That’s right. And he’s like, oh,
shit, I did a good job! TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. – You know what I mean?
– Exactly, exactly. And also– I could have done
better in these areas. – Yeah.
– You know what I mean? And also, like, my dad– and you don’t understand
this until you have kids. You can’t understand how scared
your parents are for you. You know what I mean? Like you’re not
really seeing that. You’re just seeing
them come down on you Right. You know what I’m
saying, you know? But now it’s like, I get it. I’d have been freaking
out, you know? Eesh. TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah. What’s your son taking
up Does he know yet? I don’t know. We’re going to see. We will see. DESUS: He’s going to come to
you like, Dad, Dad, dropped out of school, SoundCloud rapper.
[LAUGHTER] Right now. Me and Lil Pump going
to join that right now. TA-NEHISI COATES: Oh, you don’t
know how close you are to that. [LAUGHTER] Not totally off target. [INTERPOSING VOICES] He’s a smart kid. No matter what happens,
he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine.
– Got you. I’m proud of him– you know
what I mean– no matter what. You know, I want to
be clear about that. No matter what path he walks,
I’m extremely proud of him. Daddy loves you! That’s what you
gotta do, man, yeah. DESUS: All right,
you’re in Brooklyn now. How is that different
than Baltimore? – I’m not in Brooklyn.
– You’re not in Brooklyn? – No, I’m still in Manhattan.
– Still in Manhattan? TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah.
– OK. Were you in Brooklyn?
– I was. It’s a ugly story. People think I’m in
Brooklyn because I bought a house in Brooklyn. And then it got exposed,
and then my wife– DESUS: You had to– –she was like,
we can’t live there. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – So I never moved to Brooklyn.
– Exposed like how? Like, people were just
writing you stuff? – No, people like–
– Put the address on. – –news reports.
– Yeah. DESUS: Oh wow! And then they took
pictures in the house. Then they Photoshopped
me into the kitchen. What? And then they went
into my kid’s Instagram. What? You know what I mean?
[INTERPOSING VOICES] –you have like,
rock star problems. Problem is like, I’m a writer.
[INTERPOSING VOICES] What are you doing?
Come on! This ain’t George Clooney. Do people see
you on the street and they’re, like, (YELLING)
yo, page 46, my guy, I love you! (YELLING) You taught us shit
you know chapter 5 was fire! TA-NEHISI COATES:
That would be great. DESUS: That would be– That would be great, but
it’s not actually like that. DESUS: It’s not like that? No, it’s not like– but that–
that would be off the hook. I would love that.
I would love– – Really?
– I would love it. I’m surprised
you didn’t get that for the “Black Panther” graphic
novel, because that was like– Nah. MERO: –that was like
a cultural juggernaut. I think people come– they will come up, you
know, they give you a dap. You know, the
coolest thing is when you are in somewhere– like I
was in Chelsea Market, right? Chelsea Market– yeah,
Chelsea Market, right? DESUS: Right, right. I’m in there getting my
fresh fish and everything. And there was a brother
there, you know, who was just part of the custodial staff. And he just came up,
he said, listen, man, anytime I see you on MSNBC,
anytime I see anything you write, I’m reading. That– – That’s the phrase you want.
– I mean, come on! – Yeah!
– Yeah. You know what I’m saying?
Like, that’s the real thing. Or you’re on Amtrak, somebody
checking your ticket, yo, I saw you in Congress doing XYZ. That– I mean– That’s the illest
feeling, man. Somebody’s on their job,
and they could potentially get in trouble, but take
the time to be like yo, I really fuck with you– TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know but they don’t
know, you know what I mean? MERO: Yeah, exactly, yeah. I love that. MacArthur? You got the genius grant? Yeah. That’s not the official title. Genius is not actually in it. People have been adding genius. But it’s money. Rolling in dough.
Fuck the– TA-NEHISI COATES: It is money. [INTERPOSING VOICES] It is money. DESUS: What did you
do with the money? Because we had someone
before, they was like, no, that’s none of your business. No, no, no, I’m good
with that, you know? I mean, pay bills,
setup you know, a decent retirement account,
which I had never had, for my wife and
myself, you know? As I said, that tuition free
joint for my son for college. DESUS: Got you. I did really boring stuff. I own a car. I don’t have any huge thing. MERO: Right, right.
– You know what I mean? I need some vices. What’s your biggest
purchase you’ve made? What’s the biggest
wasteful purchase that– if someone at MSNBC
or “The Atlantic” saw you made, that they’d
be like, wow, you walling. Did you jump where
you were like, yeah– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Are you– I buy a lot of shit. [INTERPOSING VOICES] I mean, how many
shoes we talking? I don’t know, 15?
DESUS: 15? 13?
DESUS: That’s not– It’s a lot for
somebody like me. Maybe not y’all, but
that’s a lot for somebody who does what I do. And actually, it’s
not even so bad. The problem is why I do it. DESUS: Why do you do it? Because I came up
in like, the ’80s and the ’90s, and my parents
wouldn’t let me have anything. Exactly. You know what I’m saying? Like, you’d get shot, robbed,
you don’t know what I mean? I got like FiveStar jackets.
– I’m buying you new Jordans. – Yeah.
– But the old joints. The old joints. [INTERPOSING VOICES] –people at your school
had, and you was like– [INTERPOSING VOICES]
– Nah. As soon somebody got robbed
for their Georgetown joint, that was it.
That was it. And so now I’m like,
living out my child. That’s probably
the most wasteful thing, just straight up. Come on, there’s
no call for this. (LAUGHING) You know what I mean? They got duke. Now we have friends in common.
You’re friends with Chris Hayes? – Yeah.
– I am friends with Chris Hayes. Yeah. You ever play
basketball with him? Never. I got no game, and
he would destroy me. DESUS: I’ve heard that. He would be destroy– I’ve heard Chris is
nasty in basketball. Yeah, no, no.
I don’t want it. Yeah, also, that would be
weird, like if he crossed you up, you come the show– No, no! [LAUGHTER] He’d be like, (AS CHRIS
HAYES) Tonight on All In [INTERPOSING VOICES] I’m busting Ta-Nehisi
Coates’ ass. [LAUGHTER] Left him unzipped. [LAUGHTER]
[INTERPOSING VOICES] He’d have highlights. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Really? I thought we was talking about–
you know what I’m saying? Come on, bro. I gave this
motherfucker 10 points. [LAUGHTER] After study– after
the reparations– do you think that’s even
possible in the United States? I don’t know, man.
DESUS: You don’t think so? I don’t know. I mean, we just had
congressional hearings. I didn’t think
that would happen. I didn’t think
that was possible. DESUS: Right.
– So I just tell– my job is to write, you know? You want me to talk about it,
I’ll talk about it, and then y’all do what you do, you know? But I don’t know. What was the
feedback for that? Because I saw a lot
online, Saw a lot of positive, a lot of negative. Lot of negative. TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually didn’t
interact much with it. DESUS: Got you. Because I learned a while ago
that– and it’s a discipline, or it’s more like a practice. Sometimes, I’m good,
sometimes, I’m bad. But I should keep as much
distance from reaction as I can.
– Yeah, yeah. You know? – Because it get–
– You know? You’ll have like a
million people saying, oh, this is great, but that
one person, you’re like– Yeah, and it
corrupts the process. It starts getting your head. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Let’s take it a couple
of months into the future. TA-NEHISI COATES: All right.
All right. 2020, what do
you see happening? What’s the political landscape? Because right now,
I’m like, people ask me all the time, like– or oh, you’re with this guy,
you will interview this person. And it’s like, it’s not an– I feel like they’re
trying to make it an indictment on
us being like, oh, you’re supporting this person. But it’s like, no,
we’re just presenting this person to the public. Now we are supporting
Lil Nas X for president. Oh yeah, absolutely.
[LAUGHTER] 100% yo. “Old Town Road” at the
inauguration, let’s get it. – Paninis for everybody.
– You know what I’m saying? Paninis You know
what I’m saying? Don’t be meanies. [LAUGHTER] No, do you think Trump
is going to get impeached? I wouldn’t be surprised
if he gets impeached. I’d be shocked if
he got convicted. DESUS: Right. I think he should be
impeached anyway, whether– and should do your– you
know, you got to do your job, you know? And other people
can, you know, not do theirs if they choose not to. But obviously, you know, I
hope he don’t get re-elected. DESUS: Right. I wouldn’t be
surprised if he did. You think he’s ever
read any of your stuff? Absolutely not. Hell no!
[INTERPOSING VOICES] He’s like, goddamn– [INTERPOSING VOICES] If I was on Twitter– [INTERPOSING VOICES] If I was still on Twitter,
and if I went on Fox– like, I took up on– like, when
I get invitations from Fox, I actually accept it
and went on Fox, yeah. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Terrible Ta-Nehisi
has hot take about me. TA-NEHISI COATES:
Terrible Ta-Nehisi. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yeah, some terrible
alliteration nickname. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Knowing him, he probably would
get you confused with Takashi. – Yeah.
– He probably would. [INTERPOSING VOICES] He talks about reparations,
now he shot somebody. Now he’s an informant. [LAUGHTER] This is– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Is this your king? [LAUGHTER] So what’s next? Are you going to– more nonfiction, more
fiction, more papers? Bro I gotta get
through this tour, man. DESUS: Are you going to
ghost write for a rapper? No, no, no. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – You going to have them paying
– No, no. What if Hov was like, yo? [INTERPOSING VOICES] –at least some poetry for–
[INTERPOSING VOICES] – Y’all got it backwards.
– I’m doing a new album, 555. [INTERPOSING VOICES] [LAUGHTER] Y’all got it totally,
totally backwards. In fact, what I– and this is like,
people don’t really– I’m rarely in a
conversation like this where people even know. But it’s actually the rappers
that influence how I write. DESUS: Oh really? It’s the other way around. And you know, I think– you
know, folks like us think this. But I think these are like
some of the greatest writers that we got, period, bar none. Got you. Bar none. You know, I always
tell this story. I had to go to a family
reunion one time. And I had to get back up
like, early in the morning. And I played Illadelph
Halflife all the way back to. [INTERPOSING VOICES] And I was working
on my first book. And I said, yo, if I get
anywhere near this dude– like, the way this dude
is like, nice with his you know, on his– I would be OK. I would be OK. But people don’t– I don’t
know– they don’t really see– I mean, we do, but they don’t
really see rappers as writers. DESUS: Right.
– It’s the weirdest thing. Like, they don’t–
MERO: It’s they literally write. – They don’t process.
– They sit down– TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah, exactly.
– –and it’s a process. – That’s what they do, yes.
– They write. Well, not like
Blueface, like– Well– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Like, there’s levels. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Actually, he
might be the most– what if he’s like, the
most brilliant rapper ever, and we just can’t–
– We just don’t know. We don’t know. It’s just abstract, like,
you know, John Coltrane’s type, you know what I mean?
[INTERPOSING VOICES] Like avant garde. Is he the e.e.
cummings of rap? It’s possible. Yo! [MIND BLOWN NOISE] You
know what I’m saying? Make my head
explode graphically. [LAUGHTER] But yeah, no, like,
it’s true, man. Like, I pointed to Nas
as an example of this. Like, he’ll– TA-NEHISI COATES: Listen. He’ll have a song, and you’ll
be like, yo, you’re there. Like, I was in the Lexx watching
Kathie Lee and Regis with Nas when he was rapping about it.
TA-NEHISI COATES: That’s right. You know what I’m saying?
So it was just like– That’s right. –if you could paint
a picture like that– That’s right. –and then have the talent
to not only paint the picture, but flow over a
beat and deliver, and the breath control, and all
the technical aspects of it. TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, bro, how
could you not respect that? TA-NEHISI COATES:
So I was like– my freshman year college,
“Illmatic” came out. And “NY York State
of Mind,” where he’s running through the
grass, grabs the gun. [INTERPOSING VOICES] –sees the kids,
you know what I mean? And it’s kind of like– you
know, it’s like, little kids, and he’s kind of like, you
know, fucked up by that. Yeah. I was like, yo! That’s a verse.
That is a verse. That’s what I want to do. Like, that’s where,
you know– like, I want to write like that,
you know what I mean? DESUS: You want to
get that feeling. Yeah, where you can
get it in your gut, you know what I’m saying? You know, so Migos writing
for these– no, bro. [LAUGHTER] [INTERPOSING VOICES] What words of encouragement
do you have for like, young kids of color that want to write? Yeah, I think the main
thing is to keep reading and keep writing, you know? I mean, just don’t stop. I mean, I think one of the hard
things for all people who are creating anything is like,
in your early incarnations, like how bad it is. Yeah. You know what I’m saying? Like, just low key–
somewhere in the world, there are tapes of
me when I’m like, I guess about 13 years old,
trying to sound like Rakim, you know what I mean? Trying to do that. Burn those tapes. [LAUGHTER] I wasn’t going to get
there, you know what I mean? But I took the lesson
about the writing, you know what I’m saying? DESUS: Right. And you know, carried
it into other things. So I think it’s just like,
really important not to stop, you know what I mean? Because it can be
really frustrating to be trying to do something, and
you’re like, why is this dude– So good at this! – Yeah, and I can’t even–
– And it’s just effortless. Like, just effortless. And I’m putting in all
the effort in the world, and I’m not even close to
this, you know what I mean? And that’s just
the growth process, you know what I’m saying?
That’s just your journey. DESUS: Cool, man. But then again, Rakim probably
read “We Were Eight Years in Power” and was
like, goddamn, I could never do some shit like this.
TA-NEHISI COATES: He’s wrong. He’s wrong, bro. [LAUGHTER] He’s dead wrong. He would be dead wrong,
completely wrong. MERO: As as dude that’s
influenced by hip hop, we got to ask you this. This is the barbershop
question of all time. TA-NEHISI COATES: Oh, I know–
– You already know. Don’t ask.
This is a trap. This is a trap.
– It’s a trap, but it’s– It’s a trap. –walked right into it,
T. Walked right into it. Give me your top five. [INTERPOSING VOICES] This is such a trap. Obviously, we see
Big L on the shirt. Rest in peace, Big L.
– Yeah. Wow! (DEEP VOICE) Big
L rest in peace. That’s why I need
your premiere voice. That’s right. See, the problem is, it’s
like, whenever you catch me, it might change.
DESUS: Yeah. MERO: Yeah, I say
it all the time. My top five changes monthly. TA-NEHISI COATES: It
changes all the time. So this is not in
any particular order. [INTERPOSING VOICES]
MERO: It doesn’t have to be, no. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Safe space, don’t
get mad at him, OK? You know what I’m saying? No, but the question is made
for people to be mad at you. Yeah. [INTERPOSING VOICES] That’s why it’s a
barbershop question. That’s right. Because you want
to get up and argue– [INTERPOSING VOICES]
– That’s right. Yo, get the– Joe Budden in your top five? [LAUGHTER] Who the fuck? Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? [LAUGHTER] So I would say– I got to say Kendrick. Kendrick. I got to say Nas. Nas. I gotta say Rakim. MERO: Rakim. I gotta say– see, I’m
going to fuck this up. I gotta say, G Rap. Oh yeah! Yeah. I just gotta say– [INTERPOSING VOICES] I gotta say G Rap. And I mean, you just
can’t front on Hov. [INTERPOSING VOICES] MERO: The longevity– Yeah, you can’t. –the content, yeah. So we’re just right– Ari Melber was like, yes! [LAUGHTER] Yes, we got him! Hip hop, hip hop. [LAUGHTER] [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yo, Ari just did the
windmill over that. He was like, yo! [LAUGHTER] Yo, we could talk to
you all afternoon, man. [INTERPOSING VOICES] –so much fun. You know how it is in New York. We got bodegas. Bodegas got the wild neon sign. What would your neon sign say? So since we was
talking about Nas, I gotta go with the famous
line from “NY State of Mind.” See, with the pen I’m extreme. DESUS: Ah! MERO: Ah! DESUS: Ah! Boom, boom, boom.
Yo, thank you, Ta-Nehisi. [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yo, read “The Water Dancer.”
TA-NEHISI COATES: Thank y’all – All his books.
– All of them. – Graphic novels.
– You know what I’m saying? You know what I mean? You know what I’m saying? Expand your mind! [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Prior to this, I had only seen this man through a political and academic lens, such a humanizing interview really made this a great interview for me.

  2. This might just be my favorite interview Coates has done for this book. Thank you for sharing the extended version of this interview with us!

  3. Comic books, Dungeons & Dragons and hip hop. Goddayum that was me at 13. I think my Dungeon Master's Handbook is still at my mother's house somewhere as well as a copy of Even An Android Can Cry

  4. Coates and the Bodega Boys have been some of my fav people for a long while…Ill conversation.
    Loved that bit about Coates knowing that he couldn’t rap like Rakim, but that he could take Rakim’s larger lessons and energy and channel it into his own craft.

  5. My man really a hip hop head with that Big L shirt on 👍 Im a 2000s baby and I'm sad how far the mainstream is away from that raw shit

  6. Hes one of my favorite comic book writers, does amazing work on Black Panther, upped that mythos in such a major way.

  7. Mr. Coates has an edge of discomfort in all his other interviews, especially with compliments, that he does not have here. That is fine. The man is a writer not a performer. The world needs writers! This is the best interview I have seen with him. Putting NPR to shame guys!

  8. How the hell Ta-Nehisi Coates has a son at Howard U, & he looks like he’s not a day over 30?! He’s around my age & I look like I could be his mom! Jealous 😏

  9. That Dominican Dude Is Me Out here,, Right Now, Same Age , Same Flow . Born In DR Growing Up Between NYC & Boston City and the Land Of Perpetual Relaxation Santiago De Los 30 Caballeros Y Las Aguilar Cibaeñas Coñooooo.

    These men chopped it up like the Brothers they are in our Diaspora!! #kingflow👑🖤👊🏾💪🏾

  11. The top five awnsers were great especially NAS!! but I cant help but feel that everybodys forgetting

    THE legendary Tupac Amaru Shakur_The Shakespeare of Rap
    RIP 2PAC🔥✊✌

  12. The only interview of TaNahisi Coates I will ever trust. The beauty is his humble honesty from his childhood and family to his high-end public relations.

  13. Desus and Mero are great interviewers. They get their guests to open up and relax. This interview in particular made me like Ta-Nehisi Coates the guy, not just the writer.

  14. So, I bought the beer Desus drinks. I'm drinking it now actually…… This is not good beer at all. It's like barely a step up from Mickey's and old e.

  15. id honestly love to see Ta-Nehisi write Superman. Ive read he's not into DC that much but it would be interesting

  16. As a white 42 year old punk/metal burnout from the north, I gotta say: this man is wildly intelligent and gives me hope for the future. 'Between the World & Me' needs to be required reading.

  17. I love hearing ta-nehisi speak in environments where he doesn't have to codeswitch, feels like we're getting to hear the real him

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