Talib Kweli at HMV Forum, London | Live Review

When it comes to a lion of Hip Hop, a revered storyteller and one of raps most well known expressers of truth, you can’t help but mention Talib Kweli, amongst the likes of Black Star co-star Mos Def, and Black Thought. On March 20 as part of his ongoing lengthy tour, Kweli brought Brooklyn to Kentish Town’s HMV Forum with support from two of the UK’s most well respected lyricists, Lowkey and Mic Righteous.

Despite having no DJ present to build the vibe in the venue, which is somewhat disappointing at a Hip Hop concert, the venue was soon full to capacity and the restless audience were pacified by the first of the support acts.

Mic Righteous delivered a passionate and confident 45 minute set running through tracks from his current mixtape Kam Pain, as well as a freestyle referencing his Cher Lloyd feature, commanding the stage whilst narrating to warm up the typically tough London crowd.

Lowkey, the more well known of the two, effortlessly performed to his usual standard encouraging those in the audience to participate with the sing along tracks from his current album. Both rappers made for fitting warm up acts to ready us for what was to be a night of real Hip Hop.

Then, beginning with an impressive set from his DJ who cut and scratched through a homage to Nas which set the energy levels, Talib Kweli graced the stage to a rapturous reception kicking off his polished stage show with solo bangers from his past offerings and more current.

Reminding us of his solid back catalogue he delivered hit after hit, including “Listen!!!” and “Palookas” easing us into his acclaimed Reflection Eternal collaborative tracks such as “In This World” – but also keeping relevant with new music despite his veteran status, freestyling over “Rack City” and Drake‘s “I’m On One.”

Interaction was a key part of the night in not only making sure the crowd was still present with him throughout, using typical call-and-response tactics but also with his personal introduction to the track “Distractions,” which he dedicated to Palestine. Despite an amusing moment of him calling out the sound man with no hesitation, he kept it moving to jump on the turntables and show off his notable DJ skills, before transitioning into the more upbeat section of his set.

A highlight for me was undoubtedly the energy and passion Talib gave to his performance, which can often start to lag towards the end of Hip Hop shows. From its more mellow beginning to the end of his set, he uplifted us after his encore and testified his way through his more mainstream tracks “Never Been In Love Before,” “I Try” and “Get By.”

Not only were we exposed to his character, with comical moments like him commenting on the medicinal haze in the air before launching into “I Get High,” but also how much of a seasoned performer he is with his delivery of each track with the same zeal he lends to his recordings. The effortless on-stage chemistry with his DJ also added to this.

Talib more than delivered by giving us a well rounded, crafted stage show touching on points in his career saluting his peers – the late J Dilla, long time collaborator Mos Def and their Black Star movement – and also debuting a track from his forthcoming album that features Kendrick Lamar and Curren$y.

The world ‘legend’ in music is often used lightly, and the measure of this should not only be by consistent releases but also the ability to translate the message onto a live platform. Talib firmly checks those boxes.

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