They’ve got their little categories, like ‘conscious’ and ‘gangsta’. It used to be a thing where hip-hop was all together. Fresh Prince would be on tour with N.W.A. It wasn’t like, ‘You have got to like me in order for me to like you.’ That’s just some more white folks trying to think that all niggas are alike, and now it’s expanded. It used to be one type of nigga; now it’s two. There is so much more dimension to who we are. A monolith is a monolith, even if there’s two monoliths to choose from. I ain’t mad at Snoop. I’m not mad at Master P. I ain’t mad at the Hot Boys. I’m mad when that’s all I see. I would be mad if I looked up and all I saw on TV was me or Common or The Roots, because I know that ain’t the whole deal. The real joy is when you can kick it with everyone. That’s what hip-hop is all about. … They keep trying to slip the ‘conscious rapper’ thing on me. I come from Roosevelt Projects, man. The ghetto. I drank the same sugar water, ate hard candy. And they try to get me because I’m supposed to be more articulate, I’m supposed to be not like the other Negroes, to get me to say something against my brothers. I’m not going out like that, man.
— Mos Def on being called a “conscious rapper”