Words By Khalid Strickland
Photos By Michael Nicholas
By now, we’re all familiar with Nas’ hotly-debated proclamation “Hip-Hop Is Dead.” The Hip-Hop fans who packed the Assembly Hall of Hunter College on May 2nd, however, may think otherwise. That’s because they were treated to a great concert headlined by Brooklyn’s outstanding wordsmith, Talib Kweli.
The sold-out concert also featured the celebrated DJ crew Ill Insanity, formerly known as The X-Ecutioners. Accomplished DJ’s Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and Precision (the U.S. champion of 2007’s DMC competition) make up the super-group of turntable specialists. Ill Insanity’s Fat Beats-distributed album, Ground Xero, is an acclaimed gem that features the trio (and other prestigious spinners such as Q-Bert and former X-Ecutioner, Roc Raida) cutting and scratching over neck-snapping, boom-bap instrumentals. The LP’s lone vocalist, Long Island-bred rapper Dashah, shines brightly on the track “Decorated Vets.”
Ill Insanity opened the concert with a set full of turntable theatrics that wowed the audience. With their well-timed routines and lightning quick hands, Ill Insanity mixed and manipulated the vinyl to do their bidding. The trio worked like an orchestra, chopping and scratching in unison; the DJs also had solo moments as well. After Ill Insanity received a standing ovation for their 22-minute set, four-man breakdance crew Supreme Beings attacked the stage with their gravity-defying moves. The group’s energetic headspins, handstands and backflips electrified the Hall. Much to the crowd’s delight, Supreme Beings unearthed a seemingly forgotten element of Hip-Hop culture, and did it extremely well. Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew would’ve been proud.
With the hyped-up fans on their feet and ready for the main course, Talib Kweli finally touched down and brought the energy level to fever pitch. Kweli’s fourth and latest solo album, Eardrum, has sold 251,500 copies, making it his highest-selling LP to date. Kweli performed hits from all of his solo albums and reached deeper into his catalog for “Definition,” the single that put him and Mos Def on the map as the duo Black Star. Not only did Kweli perform his own songs, he also got the crowd to sing-along as his DJ spun 80’s hits like “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. Kweli even had Supreme Beings accompany him onstage to flaunt more of their breakdance routines to the oldies-but-goodies. It was an improvised moment that embodied the spirit of organic Hip-Hop; a spirit that was alive and kicking at Hunter College.
Much to the disappointment of the stone-faced cops waiting to crack skulls outside, the elated fans were orderly and there were no arrests to be made when the concert was over. There would be no episodes of violence for the local tabloids to put on blastâ€¦ too bad for them.
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