The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is not a song you expect to hear at a traditional rap concert. But then again, Talib Kweli is not your typical rapper.
The chorus from the 1966 chart-topping hit, used once by Kweli in a mix tape, highlighted a few non-conventional hip-hop songs performed by the Brooklyn native last Friday night in front of a packed house at The Aggie Theatre.
Make no mistake though, Kweli flowed through an array of his own lyrically-charged content, both old and new.
“Get Em high,” a hit from Kanye West’s debut album, “College Dropout,” “Get By,” a single off of Kweli’s 2002 “Quality,” and “Definition,” the signature song off his 1998 collaborative effort with Mos Def, were among some of the fan favorites from an audience the hip-hop artist said he is accustomed to performing in front of.
“When you do concerts, the majority of the crowd is going to be college kids and white kids and people who can basically afford to go to concerts,” he said with a relaxed tone minutes before the show, contrasting the high energy spirit he brought all evening. “Most of the concerts I do are not in front of the same people that I grew up with. Every once in a while I get to do that, but those are not the type of people that get to go to concerts.”
While Fort Collins will never seriously be considered a hip-hop hotspot, it did transcend into just that over the past week.
Fellow rap contemporary Common performed a free show on the CSU campus earlier this week. The two artists are more than familiar with each other, collaborating together on more than occasion.
“Common is like my favorite MC and he’s a gentleman and a scholar,” Kweli said. “I love working with him.”
Shortly after taking the stage, Kweli was quick to affirm his reputation as one of the industry’s most vocal artists. He encouraged the crowd to call the radio station and request songs from his upcoming album, “Eardrum.”
“But instead you’ll hear this,” he said, as the beat from Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot” dropped. Kweli mocked the No. 1 song with lyrics of his own, bashing today’s rappers who seem more concerned with jewelry than lyrics.
Kweli noted his politically conscious song lyrics and his depth of knowledge about the music genre as reasons he considers himself a leading voice in the hip-hop community.
“I’m student of hip-hop. I study it. I have had my time in,” he said. “There are other artists who can say the same thing that I say, but I think the way I’ve made my music really speaks to the belief that my opinion is more well-formed.”
However, Kweli proved he was not all business.
“Now it’s time to party,” he announced near the end of the show, inviting patrons on stage to show off their dance moves. “The party” was one of many entertaining moments throughout a night that was never dull.
Staff writer Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.