Music

Hip-hop hero Talib Kweli restates his credentials at Brooklyn Bowl

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Talib Kweli at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas
Chase Stevens/Erik Kabik Photo Group
Max Plenke

Three stars

Talib Kweli March 6, Brooklyn Bowl.

Two times in as many months Las Vegas has received live performances from hip-hop royalty. First was the colossal showing of Rakim at the Bunkhouse Downtown. And Friday night saw Talib Kweli—a Brooklyn household name solo, but the stuff of vinyl-shop parables when paired with Mos Def to become Black Star—grace the cavernous Brooklyn Bowl for the first time with support from local HighDro and touring support Niko Is.

Like Rakim’s performance, Kweli’s was a lesson in the history of the genre. He included “Get By” from 2002. He included “Definition” from Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star­—songs that would make the playlist if we ever need to explain hip-hop to visiting aliens. Kweli took full advantage of the ability to skip all over his discography, hitting turn-of-the-century singles while still bringing out songs from 2013’s albums Gravitas and Prisoner of Conscious. And while there were more eardrum-teasing partial plays than can sustain a steadily rising flow, it left enough time for, among a few more surprises, a rendition of Rick James’ “Mary Jane,” Kweli’s own take on The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” (called “Lonely People,” from a 2004 mixtape), his verse on Kanye West’s “Get ’em High,” and Dilated Peoples’ “Kindness for Weakness.” Which, more than anything else, points out how Kweli has cameo’d on damn near everything.

And while, like Rakim, Kweli showed some age (that’s a big stage for a 39-year-old to cover all night), Kweli’s show came with an added message encouraging the Black Lives Matter movement, something he’s been supporting heavily since (and before) joining protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Which now gave the show two significant and inspiring signs: Some musicians still tour in support of causes larger than themselves, and Las Vegas is continuing the trend of attracting significant hip-hop acts who would otherwise plan tours around the Valley. Here’s hoping we keep it up.

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