In order to get to the point where Talib finally took the stage a little bit after 11:15 PM, I had to brave the smell of your mom and dad’s not-so-dank marijuana. The crowd was on average a decade older than myself, early-to-mid thirties being common. The security trekked their way through the main pit constantly forcing people to put out their low-grade joints, telling them to take it to the smoking patio.
Prior to Talib Kweli taking the stage, the DJ on stage blasted some throwback jams from names like OutKast, which inspired big sing and dance-alongs.
Once Talib Kweli hit the stage, the crowd was beyond ready. Favorites from Talib Kweli’s many hats like “Move Something” and “The Blast” as well his time with Mos Def as Black Star (“Respiration”) had the crowd jumping and giving a standing ovation just a few songs into the set.
Kweli gave an empowered speech early in the set before launching into “This Means You.” His brand of hip-hop has always derived more meaning than what you commonly hear on the radio, and while he has somewhat lived in the shadows of the other artists he’s worked with, he deserves credit for helping bring some of them to another level.
Kweli and Hi-Tek might not be chart-toppers, but they were groundbreakers in a sense. The first time I ever heard J. Cole was on the Reflection Eternal track “Just Begun.”
The crowd directly around me were all having the best time. Shout out to the white hipster in the glasses and Dodgers hat that kept turning around and rapping along with every word that Talib Kweli spit over the course of his hour-long set. This guy’s excitement never wavered, and it definitely inspired the people around him to get down past midnight on a Thursday. High-energy crowds are a big reason why hip-hop shows are so damn fun, so it was nice to be around people that had it in spades.
Sun Valley rapper Self-Provoked was the opener that went on right before Talib Kweli. His rhyming skills were top-notch but he had a hard time earning the praise of the crowd. Over time he did that, but when there wasn’t loud applause after a song he seemed to be lacking a little confidence and was self-deprecating. He’s got mic skills and has the flow of Twista, but it also makes it really hard to keep up with him.
Deion opened the show, backed by The Katalyst, an awesome band that had horns and backup singers. One minor complaint I had about Kweli’s set was the sound wasn’t great and there was a track playing to go along with Hi-Tek’s beats. Since the opener had a live band, it would’ve been dope to see that integrated into his closing set in some fashion.
Reflection Eternal has two albums to their name and Talib Kweli is one of the most prolific guys out there these days, making him hard to pin down to any one project. If you’re a fan of his brand of hip-hop, you would’ve found happiness at that Belasco show – even with the B.O.-smelling weed that permeated the building at all times.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Farah Sosa