Talib Kweli came to London on Tuesday 20th March 2012 to HMV Forum for his first gig of his UK tour. With some new songs out from the legend, and the album ‘Prisoner of Conscious,’ on the way, anticipation was high as Flavour’s Shireen Fenner headed down there.
Mic Righteous the young UK rapper opened for Talib, performing tracks off his new mixtape Kampain, with his friend/producer/DJ on the decks Preston Play, providing Mic with the soundtrack to his performance. Opening with the track Kampain was perfectly suited, as the track gives a solid introduction and background knowledge about Mic, with him telling the audience, “that tune gets me gassed.” Next up was ‘On Your Ones,’ where he interacted with the crowd saying, “Let me see hands in the air,” and pretty much all the crowd were taking part, warming them up. My personal favourite track off the mixtape ‘I’ll Try My Best,’ where he raps from a fans perspective, was performed to the crowd, who were really starting to enjoy themselves now, with Mic dropping the microphone and leaving the stage, leaving the audience wondering what had happened. Of course after 30 seconds he is back on to perform the rest of the song with more passion and delivery. Talking to the audience again to explain his next track, ‘Look At My Balls,’ he said, “This is for the fake, the part time rappers. Make some noise for the real hip hop fans.” This track was delivered with such intensity; you could tell he was consumed by the passion of his lyrics. A freestyle was followed by the closing track ‘Winding Road,’ where the stage lights were turned off and everyone in the audience turned their phone lights on.
Lowkey the second opener for Talib Kweli was on next. There were plenty of Lowkey fans in the audience and when his second track ‘They Call Me A Terrorist,’ came on, hands were in the air waving side to side. ‘My Soul’ was also a winner, with Lowkey asking the crowd to sing ‘You can’t take my soul,’ and everyone singing along. Up next was his Fire In The Booth, with so many people knowing the words and the crowd starting to have fun and dance, accompanied by a freestyle at the end. ‘Hand On Your Gun,’ was next with everyone in the audience putting their hands up. Lowkey then talked to the audience asking them to say, “Hip hop ain’t dead, it’s in London,” and the gig turned into a chant. ‘Obama Nation,’ was next on the schedule for Lowkey. Singer Mai Khalil was brought out to perform, ‘Million Man March,’ showcasing her amazing vocal talent. The closing track, and in true Lowkey style, was ‘Long Live Palestine,’ with people in the crowd jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air to these lyrics.
Talib Kweli’s DJ was up next to warm the crowd up for what everyone had been waiting for, asking ‘Y’all ready for Talib Kweli?’ He bursts onto the stage full of energy getting onto the first track of the night, ‘Say Something.’ “London how are you feeling?” he asks the audience, who replies with shouting, ready to hear more from the hip hop legend. He gets into track, ‘Listen,’ one of his most popular tracks. A few tracks in and he then asks ‘How many Beastie Boy fans we got in London?’ before rapping over one of their tracks, then mixing it into Drake’s ‘I’m On One,’ this bit got the crowd buzzing with the audience raving. One of the highlights of the night was Talib sampling “All The Lonely People,’ by Paul McCartney stating, “Paul McCartney denied the sample, but my s**t is doper than all the other s**t,” and when the beat dropped on the track the crowd again went crazy, enjoying the moment. The next track up was off his next album ‘Prisoner of Conscious,’ and his latest release, ‘Distractions,’ with him stating, “The first time I performed this track was at Occupy Wall St.” At the end of the track Talib gives us a freestyle highlighting why he is one of the best in the game, with the crowd clapping and cheering at the end. The DJ and Talib Kweli swap positions with him behind the booth rapping and saying, “hand in the air, say turn it up,” and the DJ at the front of the stage dancing, and then Kweli putting on Jay Z and Kanye’s track N***s In Paris. He then raps over Tyga’s ‘Rack City,’ showing us his versatility as an artist too. ‘Definition’ sent the crowd absolutely berserk from his Blacksmith days with Mos Def. The next section of the show was dedicated to his work with J Dilla, with the crowd moshing. It was getting towards the end of the night and Talib wanted everyone to remember the show as one of the best saying, “We gonna have a good old fashioned sing a long right now, clap your hands to the beat,” perfoming the track with him and Hi Tek, ‘The Blast,’ in between telling everyone to keep dancing. He leaves the stage and we think it’s all over, but the crowd want him back and are chanting, “Kweli, Kweli,” and stomping their feet. He bursts back onto the stage with as much energy as before, giving us some more classic tracks including ‘I Try,’ with Mary J Blige and the Just Blaze produced track ‘Never Been In Love.’
All in all, the show was definitely one for the hip hop lovers, full of intensity, passion and love for the music. The delivery and crowd interactions from all the performers were on point, showing that all of them had thought about their fans. I couldn’t have asked for better from the legend that is Talib Kweli, even after years in the game and being one of the most respected hip hop artists, he still performed throughout the show with as much energy, vibrancy and passion as ever.
Review by Shireen Fenner
Photography by Saira Awan