Talib Kweli Returns Home to Play Rough Trade NYC

May 19th, 2014

Talib Kweli – Rough Trade NYC – May 17, 2014

Talib Kweli – Rough Trade NYC – May 17, 2014
Talib Kweli is an MC who takes his mastering of the ceremonies very seriously. Back in Brooklyn only for Saturday afternoon, coming directly from LaGuardia and leaving out of JFK that night, Kweli treated his hometown fans to an intimate performance at Rough Trade NYC. He had everyone’s hands in the air, dancing and singling along, an impressive feat for an afternoon show, with most of the crowd sober and/or hungover. The man knows how to treat his fans and gets it back in love, no matter the time of day.

Talib Kweli is an artist with a lot to say. With nearly 20 years of music behind him, he’s always been a rapper who takes his words seriously. His Rough Trade NYC performance included a rare live rendition of “Rare Portraits,” telling everyone afterward that he usually avoids the autobiographical songs at shows in favor of the more “rah-rah, let’s party” selections. Performing his new song, “State of Grace,” about a rap fan feeling disconnected from the hip-hop she loved and grew up with, Kweli’s lyrics came out so fast and furious it was like he was racing himself to get across the song’s message.

Kweli loves talking to his audience, and he took time to discuss how he took a page from comedian Louis CK’s playbook by releasing his latest album, Gravitas, on his Web site directly to his fans, without a middleman. The MC had his own audience laughing, too. After his DJ threw down the hook for Rick James’ “Mary Jane” and Kweli realized most in the audience didn’t know it, he explained the genius of the song and how “you had to be covert with that shit” when rapping about smoking weed in the ’70s. “We got some lazy weed songs,” said Kweli, poking fun at Drake’s material and Kanye West’s “Get Em High.” The performance ended with the now-classic “Get By,” and then Kweli worked his way over to the record-store half of Rough Trade NYC to meet fans, take pictures and sign records. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Andie Diemer |