Those notions include the sentiment that conscious rap can be "pretentious and corny and condescending." To a degree, Kweli agrees, but he doesn't see mainstream rap being any better.
"What's more condescending and corny than someone telling you how much more money they have than you and telling you basically, 'I don't care about poor people'?" he asked, "which is a large part of what you hear of corporate hip-hop on the radio."
'You have to be a hustler'
Kweli doesn't think the best music is making it to the airwaves these days. For an artist to get noticed without label connections (see: career trajectories of J. Cole and Meek Mill), they have to work just as hard at promoting as they do at creating, he said.
"It's not really a talent-based game right now. No one takes a gamble. In order for you to have music, you have to be a hustler," he said.
Kweli's no exception. He has a reputation as tireless in the studio and energetic on stage. And there are the lyrics: "I got a Glock in my brain/that baffle weapon inspectors like Saddam Hussein."
"When I look at the arc of my career, my focus is on lyricism, right? I own that," he said.
The guys at the top have hustles, too. Nas and Jay-Z, for instance -- and he's a fan of both -- decided like many other rappers they'd focus on painting pictures of their don-like lives.
"You hear it in their lyrics: a lot of lyrics about money -- sex, drugs and money and capitalism and greed," Kweli said. "Not to say that's what defines them as men, but that's what a lot of their music revolved around, the themes and the pathologies in the 'hood."
This is where Kweli's views are anything but black and white. He'd never include such content in his own rhymes, but he'd also never condemn another rapper for it, even when fans think he should.
"I don't buy that," he said.
Take Rick Ross, a correctional officer-turned-gangsta rapper who came under fire this year for lyrics glorifying date rape.
Kweli said that Ross, as revolting as his word choice may have been, was a victim of circumstance while other rappers have skated for far worse lyrics. While Kweli would never condone date rape, or the Maybach Music boss' drug lord persona, he thinks focusing on that distracts from real problems in America's communities.
"He sounds like he's living the life of a drug dealer, but I see him putting out records. I think people get it twisted sometimes," Kweli said. "It's a little frustrating that people look at hip-hop with such a narrow lens, and sometimes hip-hop don't help."
Hip-hop vs. Hollywood
Kweli added that while music, movies nor video games will ever be the source of problems in black communities, "these things can perpetuate behaviors that are already there. ... The challenge is to not get distracted with looking at a symptom, which is negative music, and pretending that that's a root cause."
Rap is no different than Hollywood, he said. Rappers lie much like actors do, but where Hollywood is given a pass on fiction, hip-hop is expected to be authentic.
That makes rap an easy scapegoat when there are scarce answers to the poverty, poor education and general lack of opportunity in a community. It also provides a target when leaders won't or can't be held accountable. That isn't fair to the artists, Kweli said.
"Artists don't create an environment. Artists look at the environment, and the best artists correctly diagnose the problem," he said. "I'm not saying artists can't be leaders, but that's not the job of art, to lead. Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte -- there are artists all through history who have become leaders, but that was already in them, nothing to do with their art."
If this kind of talk is indicative of Kweli focusing on the music and breaking out of the conscious rapper confines, he may need to start tunneling.