Hip Hop and Optimism Take Center Stage

By Brandon Mazzei

 Positive vibes were flowing freely on September 9th, where anxious fans were given the opportunity to witness a very intimate performance by one of hip hops most cunning lyricists, as Talib Kweli took center stage in Farmingdale, New York. The show also featured many local acts looking to ply their trade, gaining some much-needed experience prior to Kweli’s set.

For $25 dollars fans were offered the chance to experience hip-hop in its purest form. The concert, which was held at “The Crazy Donkey” and was promoted by “Loaded Rock Shows”, featured a small elevated stage that catered to the rappers eagerness to engage the audience. A solitary lighting rig illuminated the artists from above, and provided concert goers with an intimate venue.

The doors opened at six o’ clock, as fans were patted down and ushered in to prepare for what many anticipated to be a can’t miss show. Once inside, many scampered off to the bar in search of mixed drinks, while others made themselves comfortable at the available booths parallel to the stage. One by one the local acts were given their moment in the spotlight, and soon it became clear to those in attendance who was prepared to embrace it, and who was not. The artists all made a conscious effort to draw the fans attention in with captivating instrumentals and dynamic lyrics, but many fell short and left those in attendance sitting on their hands. Applause was scattered, and it seemed as if the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief after each act said their goodbyes.

Standing out among this group of unproven artists was the rap duo of ‘Snottaynose’ and his accomplice ‘Pottymouth.’ Their punch lines were unbearably cheesy, and forced an otherwise quiet crowd to groan in disapproval. True fans of hip hop were certainly not in favor of two local artists who didn’t seem to take the creative aspect of their music overly seriously, including a song about the popular board-game “Battleship.”

Familiar faces appearing at the show included perennial local act ‘Team Beef’, consisted of “Carnivore” and “Crispy”, who are led by their front man “Grim.” While it was apparent that “Crispy” had honed his skill for some time (“Carnivore” not so much), it was difficult to take the act produced by his group seriously. With a grainy high-pitched voice, “Grim” sped through vocals that had fans confused about what exactly their songs were about. Better suited perhaps for a different crowd, it is safe to say that their unique blend of rock/rap was not well received.

Due to the amateur nature of most of the opening acts, fans were slow to respond throughout the evening, opting instead to socialize among one another. Cigarette breaks and trips to the bar were frequent, as new fans began arriving in droves hoping to catch Kweli’s set. While many spectators were informed of the possibility that he may not arrive until shortly before 1 o’ clock, it was announced by club management that Kweli would take center stage at midnight.

Hitting the stage around 10 ‘o clock was “Disconnect”, who was clearly inebriated and only seemed to get more intoxicated as his set lingered on. He seemed to have a strong local following, and his music was generally well received by the crowd who responded by showering him with adoration. Although a malfunctioning microphone almost put an abrupt end to his act, he was able to quickly rebound and bring the crowd to their feet. By far the most impressive musician up until that point, many were grateful for the opportunity to hear an unsigned talent spill his heart on stage.

Kweli posted a message on his twitter account just moments before taking the stage, tweeting at 10:52 p.m. “Crazy Donkey, Long Island. Grimy. Ok, I know what to do.”
He was backed by an endless array of infectious beats throughout the night supplied by longtime collaborator DJ Hi-Tek, and both artists worked hard to give the crowd their moneys worth. Touching on hits from previous albums such as 2002’s “Quality” and his 2004 release “The Beautiful Struggle”, Kweli was dedicated to performing each track with conviction. Packed in like sardines, fans scrambled for the opportunity to slap hands with Kweli as he belted out favorites such as “Never Been in Love.”
After receiving multiple requests to perform his commercially successful track “Get By”, the underground artist teased fans by responding that he “probably wasn’t gonna play that one, because people don’t usually like that one.” This of course incited fans who were eager to hear Kweli’s signature track, and they persisted until eventually he transitioned into the chorus which made the crowd roar in approval. After rapping for close to an hour, Kweli abruptly dropped the microphone and went backstage where he remained for the next ten minutes.
Lured out by chants of “Kweli”, he returned to perform an extra set which was well received. Perhaps the high point of the night came when Kweli performed his verse from Kanye West’s “Get ‘Em High”, which was followed by an onstage discussion over the most effective means of burning marijuana. He wrapped up shortly thereafter, and was seen exiting the front of the club and climbing into his Range Rover SUV, as the aroma of a lit joint still lingered by the stage.

Even the local MC’s were visibly awestruck by Kweli’s demeanor, as Sean “Disconnet” Morgan could be overheard asking friends if they had “ever been that close to a famous person before?” Alicia Hansen, 23 of Farmingville, made the drive out to the show specifically to see Kweli, and she was not disappointed. “I wish Talib performed a little longer, but it was hot. He really had the place jumpin’ when he did ‘Get By.'”

While most attending made the trip primarily to witness the premiere act, many fans were caught off guard by the verbal skills displayed by the lesser known talents. “I gotta give them mad props. A lot of the local acts did their thing, but Talib owned the stage. As far as the lesser known  MC’s and shit, I was really into ‘Team Beef'” confessed Bruce Alonzo, who is also an aspiring rapper himself. Indeed, the American dream was in full effect tonight, as unknowns were given the opportunity to share the stage with an authentic hip hop star and gain some much-needed experience in the process.

Not even the immaturity displayed by a handful of the opening acts could tarnish the indelible impression that was left on those who stuck around for Kweli. It was a successful night for hip-hop, as a good time was had by many and a love for music was the common thread that brought the mixed Long Island crowd to their feet.

 Perhaps the night  summed up best with a quote from Kweli, who said “My music is intelligent. But it is still music. I perform in nightclubs, not debate clubs. The drinks flow, smoke blow, speakers are loud. ”

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