6th December | The Fleece
A performance by Talib Kweli is best summarised as the deepest and most powerful street party you have ever attended. Famously hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the prolific lyricist and hip hop activist, Kweli, performs in a manner that transcends the traditional concert format.
When he took the stage, Kweli composed a live mixtape for his audience and incited a variable street party for all those in attendance. When Kweli stepped back and spoke to the audience about weighty issues, he did so in a way that didn’t change the atmosphere of the performance. Rather, when he spoke to the crowd it allowed them to feel a part of his performance, and the greater culture and movement of hip hop.
In recent years, Kweli has released numerous albums and mixtapes, most recently Awful People are Great at Parties and F*** the Money, which was made available as a free download on his website. With the help of his DJ, he expertly transitioned between tracks from his earlier collaborations such as Reflection Eternal with Hi-Tek, Black Star with Mos Def, his own solo work.
As the tracks mixed together, Kweli cut in and out of his new and old school songs, interspersed verses from hip hop and reggae legends like Bob Marley and J Dilla, and even stopping along the way to pay homage to The Beatles with the most bass heavy rendition of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ ever recorded.
In a lot of ways you can’t really describe, with words, what it’s like to listen and watch Talib Kweli live. His lyrics are crafted in a way that require multiple listens and in many cases, they require a close reading and dissection. In his more politically charged tracks, Kweli raps with intent and purpose. In the cases of singles like ‘Hot Thing’ and ‘Never Been In Love’, he raps with honesty and vulnerability not normally associated with the genre.
What’s most amazing is how the set blended into an amalgamation of political preaching, a tribute to past and present hip-hop and his literate brand of rapping into a cohesive performance that featured just Kweli and a DJ.
As images of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement from across the US were projected across the venue, intercut with clips of past performances, music videos, parties and rallies, it’s difficult to digest the abundance of content and meaning Kweli has put into all of his music and performance. As an artist and performer, his music easily makes you smile and move around, but ultimately his message stops you and forces you to contemplate everything you heard and watched long after he leaves the stage.
Check out the video for ‘F*** The Money’ below.