Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
It's the big brain on Lateef The Truthspeaker that we fetishize over and it always has been. Let's think about something in a crude and somewhat base way for a second, just to illustrate a point. If you're a heterosexual guy and you haven't been caught staring a passing chest or an ample amount of cleavage, you're a dirty liar. The same goes for heterosexual ladies and gay dudes, only for asses. It's the draw of the eyes and yet the contours of backsides and topsides have no greater offering than being some parts that are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and some parts that are great things to touch and squeeze when the green light has been given. Now, what if the brain had something like the boobs or the butts had to give them some sort of prominent tip-off to what they contained? What if there were a way to impress upon strangers and those who aren't really looking, but can't help themselves when it's all just out there in the open, that someone's got a robust and impressive mind up there in that cranium? What if there could be a general appreciation for a mind, on first glimpse - without ever needing to engage in a serious conversation - the way people can fall in love with a rack or bottom? It would be a different world. It would be a more productive and easier to navigate world. We would know who we needn't pay so much attention to for the wrong reasons and therefore, know who best to pay attention to. It could still be a world where breasts and asses were worshipped - don't get scared - but there would be a second tier where true worth could be spotted in a short moment.
Lateef The Truthspeaker would catch so many people staring. He'd see them avert their eyes sharply and obviously as they realized that they'd been seen getting an eyeful. The 37-year-old Oakland native and one of the founding members of the Soulsides collective that went on to become Quannum Projects is a formidable knowledge seeker and is a conduit for trying to affect positive change in a world that he feels has only partially gone into the shitter. He allows himself to think this way only because there are more good people than there will ever be bad people and he seems to know and believe that. He raps on "Testimony," from his latest album, "FireWire," "Somehow I stay smiling/Even with the world swirling with violence," and it really is a testament to overcoming whatever there is to overcome. Some days it can be a lot more than you think you can handle and other days, the challenge of it is just what you need to feel something, to be moved and those opportunities should never be turned down, no matter what.
Lateef is a different kind of hip-hop artist - actually prouder of his observations and those collections of insight that he's gaining than he is in the things that he spends his money on or the things that willing participants foist on him with no strings attached. He says that he's "always been about the word" and even tells us - truly or falsely - that the senior year superlative that he earned in high school was for Best Eyes and now, he says, "I look around wise," as if validating that distinction that his classmates bestowed upon him for something they figured was just superficial. They were voting just on color and on sparkle, not exactly what they could see. They voted based on the surface qualities of a breast - do those eyes look good, do they look hot? It turned out to mean more and Lateef The Truthspeaker is always hoping that things turn out to mean more than presumed.