Talib Kweli
Sat May 2
Roseland - 8 NW 6th

"If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be / lyrically, Talib Kweli / Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did five mil/ I ain't been rhymin' like Common since"

--Jay-Z, "Moment of Clarity" (from The Black Album)

"If lyrics sold / then truth be told / I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay-Z / Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / next best thing I do a record with Common Sense."

--Talib Kweli, "It's the Ghetto" (from forthcoming record Beautiful Struggle)

Here's the crux: rap music, forever in transition, is a struggle between what people want to rhyme about, and what gets played on the radio and scarfs up the dough. So last year, as Jay-Z retired, and fans and magazines wondered who will be King of NYC; who would have guessed a Chicagoan backpacker might take it to the bank? Kanye West, with his complex critique of money, cash, hos (what kinda facts are those), the magic-flowed producer with a disdain for college, fat chicks, and white folks. (You might not know about the last part, because MTV arbitrarily censors the phrase white man get paid offa all of that on West's "All Falls Down" video.)

What does Kanye West have to do with Talib Kweli (whose name translates to "student of truth")? Well, for one, he brought Talib Kweli and Jay-Z together on mixtape. "Kanye, Jay-Z, Mos Def and Kweli / we are not making songs anymore / we making history," West rhymed, shouting out his co-rappers on the Mick Boogie mixtape version of "Get By"--one of the six good songs from Quality, Kweli's last album. The follow-up, Beautiful Struggle, is released in August and features guests like West, Jean Grae, Common, Killer Mike, Mary J. Blige, and Mos Def (reprising a great moment when Talib and Mos were Black Star, and forshadowing a time when they will be again). Kweli freaked out on a message board after a raw demo version of Beautiful Struggle was leaked on the internet; perhaps as response, he released The Beautiful Mixtape--a Rick James-hosted, hot street tape that showcases the student's yarn-conjuring lyricism and untiring flow. You can feel the sparkle of change. Maybe it's Talib, bringing the rebel and the bourgeoisie together.