Talib Kweli is suing the US-based website Jezebel for emotional distress that he claims was brought on by a 2020 article titled ‘Talib Kweli’s Harassment Campaign Shows How Unprotected Black Women Are Online and Off’.
The story in question, which was written by Ashley Reese, detailed the Black Star rapper’s alleged social media interactions with and about a then-24-year-old student and activist called Maya Moody.
In July 2020, Kweli confirmed in a post on Instagram that he’d “officially left” Twitter and said he would instead be using the membership fee-based service Patreon. “Now most of my exchanges will always be with real fans who invest in me,” he wrote, citing the “bigots and trolls” he’d dealt with previously.
But Reese claimed in the Jezebel piece that Kweli, 46, was removed from Twitter due to “repeated violations” of the website’s rules. The article went on to accuse the artist of “incessantly tweeting” Moody.
The piece said that the student had become Kweli’s “obsession” following a conversation about colourism in hip-hop that referred to his wife. In a thread of tweets, Moody explained how she had been in “constant contact” with Twitter in a bid to get the rapper removed to no avail.
One user of the platform mentioned that Kweli had been tweeting Moody for 13 hours straight at one point, to which he replied: “I can go for 13 years if you come for my family. I’m just getting started.”
The site eventually took action, with a spokesperson confirming in a statement to Jezebel: “[Talib Kweli’s] account has been permanently suspended after repeated violations of the Twitter rules. Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation.
“Violence, harassment and other similar types of behaviour discourage people from expressing themselves, and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.”
Kweli claimed in his suit – a pro se, meaning he is representing himself – that Jezebel‘s story used him as a “guinea pig to clarify how Black men treat Black women”, and sent him “into a depression state of loss of appetite, sleeplessness, edgy, anxiety, and discomfort around certain women”.
Additionally, he alleged that he was portrayed as “some monster that didn’t like Black women”. Kweli opposed to this apparent suggestion by pointing out that “500k plus of his fans are Black women, his ex-wife and child’s mother are Black women, and his employees are Black women”.
He also cited the track ‘Brown Skin Lady’ from Black Star’s 1998 album, ‘Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star’ as counter evidence: “The fact that plaintiff Talib Kweli wrote the song ‘Brown Skin Lady’ in an album that charted #53 on US Billboard 200 and #13 US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard) in 1998, this song was famous worldwide.”
The artist made reference to some of the song’s lyrics, including the lines: “My brown lady creates environments for happy brown babies, I know it sounds crazy, but your skin’s the inspiration for cocoa butter.”
Kweli is seeking $300,000 (£248,000) in damages, or the equivalent to half of his salary.
In response, Jezebel said that it “stands by our story” and issued the following statement from a G/O Media spokesperson: “Jezebel’s article fairly reported on the controversy which led to the permanent suspension of Talib Kweli’s Twitter account.
“This suit, filed two years after the story was published, has no merit and the company will be seeking our attorneys fees pursuant to the protections afforded to the press to publish stories about matters of public interest like this one.”