“It is not the job of the oppressed to fix racism, it is the job of the oppressor.” Talib Kweli’s words echoed throughout the High Noon Saloon this past Saturday. He reminded us all that hip-hop has its roots in the voices of the oppressed. Kweli is a revolutionary, rapping lyrics which fight for basic human and civil rights. He spoke out to the crowd through his clever rhymes performed over catchy beats, but did not hesitate to speak out to the audience in between each song. He preached about what he raps about. He spoke out against Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the All Lives Matter movement, and our president, getting the whole Saloon to chant, “Fuck Donald Trump, Fuck Donald Trump.” Kweli made sure to tell the audience that he did not think that these people should not be allowed to speak their mind, but he also made it clear that “freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence,” and that anybody who is racist, sexist, or a bigot of any kind should expect push-back.
The crowd was definitely more diverse than an average night at The High Noon Saloon hosting an indie-rock concert. Kweli drew in an older crowd; nearly everybody was in their mid-to-late twenties through forties. Kweli asked the crowd, “Who here was bon in the 70s?” There was a huge cheer. “What about the 80s?” he asked again. The crowd roared. When he asked about the 90s, there was an eruption. “Anyone here born in the 2000s?” Kweli asked once more. There was a moment of silence, then someone in the crowd yelled, “They shouldn’t be here!” That sentiment was followed by echoes of people yelling similar thoughts. Kweli cried into the mic, “Don’t disrespect the babies!” — the crowd immediately fell silent. Talib Kweli had spoken.
The night started off with Spintelect spinning some vinyl, playing popular songs from the 90s and 2000s, incorporating hits by Jay-Z, Kanye West and The Fugees into his set. Spintelect stayed on stage the whole night as the DJ for NIKO IS, the next opener, and Kweli himself.. NIKO IS came on to the stage with a great presence and some really impressive rap verses, at times spitting cold fire at lightning fast speeds. Aside from his quality rap skills, he kept the audience engaged with his humor, repeatedly gesturing towards an empty area on stage and asking the audience to clap for, what he called, “the imaginary band.”
Talib Kweli performed multiple songs from his newest album, Radio Silence, but also had his performance littered with throwbacks to his days in Black Star with Mos Def, along with remixes of classic songs by The Jackson 5, Sister Nancy, DJ Cool Herc and The Beatles. Despite now being 42 years old, he still exuded a youthful energy, moving around stage and getting involved with the audience on a personal level. It is clear Kweli genuinely cares about everything he says and is acting as an advocate for change through his music and his actions. In the back of the High Noon Saloon where the merch booth is typically housed, there was a pop-up bookstore selling non-Eurocentric, educational, and empowering books about culture and our system that has disenfranchised so many groups of people. Talib Kweli spoke truth to the crowd at High Noon Saloon — words that they won’t soon forget.