Because hip-hop relies so heavily on words, rappers are always running their mouths. That doesn’t mean, however, they always say something worth listening to. Plenty of rappers are just talking shit, boosting themselves up, and spouting a lot of hot air between occasionally hot beats. Talib Kweli, on the other hand, is an MC who deserves to be heard anytime he steps behind the mic.
Although several of his albums have been distributed by major labels, Kweli is the epitome of an independent artist, having maintained total control of his art throughout his two-decade career. The Brooklyn native is probably best known to mainstream audiences for the hit single “Get By” and for his collaboration with Yasin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Black Star, and their classic 1998 LP. Since then, he’s worked with the likes of 9th Wonder, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Madlib, and pretty much anyone with ears and a brain to appreciate his innumerable skills.
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In addition to having a breathless flow that’s as smooth as an old Miles Davis record, Kweli uses his words as weapons. He does this not against other rappers or to degrade women or to advocate getting fucked up on cough syrup, but instead to lift up the downcast.
His is a fertile mind — that of a poet, filled with creative wordplay, social commentary, reflective thought, and a singular focus on whatever task is at hand. Whether he’s dropping records for free through his website or standing up for what’s right alongside Occupy Wall Street or protesting the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Talib Kweli puts his money where his mouth is and in the end, always pays out.
Talib Kweli. 11 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Rec Room, 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-975-2555; recroomies.com. Admission is free; ages 21 and up.