Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Hip-hop music and culture informs most things, including works of art and creative expression that don't sound anything like an MC over a break beat. Though not everybody would file Dean Blunt's output as music that falls under the purview of Microphone Check, we are far too intrigued by his work to find out he would be in Los Angeles and not ask him to sit with us.

The artist and thinker, who just released a new album that's only one part of a larger multimedia conception, takes us from the drummers of Burundi to Adam Ant, Octavia Butler to David Bowie, Rakim to Young Thug. We also hit on ageism in rap, artistry for sale and how to work interviews.

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Saul Williams in the house! What up?

FRANNIE KELLEY: Thank you for coming.

New father Freddie Gibbs spoke with Microphone Check about his inspirations, including the memoirs of Rick James and George Clinton, his business acumen, what the war in the streets is really about and, of course, Gucci.

FRANNIE KELLEY: We're really excited to talk to you after another album.

The rapper, who hails from Maryland but now resides in the Los Angeles area, came through to talk about the road to his second album, The Incredible True Story, fending off critics and the language he uses to to remind himself of his blessings and his possibilities.

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: What up, Logic?

LOGIC: What's good? This is crazy. I'm so excited.

MUHAMMAD: Me too.

FRANNIE KELLEY: Thank you for coming.

LOGIC: Of course.

FRANNIE KELLEY: This is Microphone Check, hip-hop from NPR Music. I'm Frannie Kelley.

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: I'm Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

KELLEY: And Ali is our guest for today.

MUHAMMAD: I was gonna say, "Who's our special guest?"

KELLEY: It's you, bro.

MUHAMMAD: What up, world?

The following should not be construed as legal advice — just good advice. We asked Julian Petty, who represents Ali, Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples and the estate of Biggie Smalls — and at one time worked with Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder — to come see us at Microphone Check as part of our continued effort to put ever more people on game.

When Leila Steinberg was 25 years old, she met a 17-year-old named Tupac. She became involved in his career in a managerial role, which she had stepped away from by about 1993. The next time Steinberg agreed to a management relationship with a musician was almost 20 years later. At the request of Earl Sweatshirt's mother, she began working with him while he was still in Samoa. And then she went and got him, brought him home. We spoke to Leila about her relationships with both rappers, and the work she's done apart from them.