Live Review: Talib Kweli at Cervantes' Masterpiece, with Big K.R.I.T., 10/27/13

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TALIB KWELI at CERVANTES' MASTERPIECE BALLROOM | 10/27/13 Last night, Cervantes' hosted one of the more interesting pairings in recent memory. The bill featured Talib Kweli, a New York native often lumped in the conscious rap category, and Big K.R.I.T. a Southern Rapper with a huge underground following and more street appeal. Oddly, as much as Big K.R.I.T.'s pronounced drawl recalls Pimp C, it was Kweli who took the time out to dedicate a track to the fallen UGK member. The show was a wonderful contrast of styles and blending of crowds with both acts delivering commanding sets.

Fans who stayed after Talib Kweli left the stage at Cervantes last night, chanting his name, were treated to a five-song encore and exclusive track from his upcoming project. Kweli is one of the most frequent performers to visit Colorado, and for good reason: people show up to see him. With material spanning over generations now, Kweli showed that much of his repertoire is filled with classic material that can make the crowd move. Sunday was no different. The crowd praised Kweli, start to finish, and he gave them a show to remember.

Talib started with the track "Palookas," rhyming, "You ain't got a verse/That's better than my worst one," and revved up the crowd before stopping the first of many times to ask the sound man to turn up his vocals in the stage monitors. Moving through tracks from his Reflection Eternal material, with songs "Too Late" and "The Blast," the set tastefully alternated from the Hi-Tek produced tracks into freestyles so sharp and well enunciated, they seemed like rehearsed tracks.

With a stop through the Beatles-sampled "Lonely People," and the Kanye-assisted "Get Em High," Kweli kept the show and crowd moving with his tribute to Pimp C performing "Strangers." The show then slowed for a few songs like "Hot Thing" dedicated to the ladies. After that, the Brooklyn MC turned to the DJ and said, "I think they want some reggae," a suspicion confirmed by the cheers from the crowd.

After playing a reggae song unfamiliar to most of the crowd, the DJ offered up Damien Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock," which amused the crowd, inspiring Kweli to interject, "Isn't this relatively new, though? I mean, who drinks club soda on the beach? I'm saying." From there, he transitioned into his Blackstar material, starting with "Re-Definition," showing off his classic material, which still brings the best out in fans.

Kweli lead the crowd in a "soul-clap" in silence before the voice of Mary J. Blige came through the speakers on "I Try." A short time later, Kweli took a moment to acknowledge one of his inspirations, saying, "That's a Kanye produced track, y'all, with another Nina Simone sample. If you love Nina Simone as much as I do, make some noise," he urged. "She played the piano," he noted, as a piano melody began to play the sample used for his hit, "Get By."

Thanking the crowd, he left the stage briefly, only to return for five more songs, including a "Planet Rock"-laced freestyle, and he roused the crowd a short time later, pausing to direct the crowd: "All the B-boys and B-girls I see you. Make a circle." He rapped over a Beastie Boys joint and on Drake's "I'm On One," before introducing his final track by saying, "This is a song from my next album, Prisoner of Conscious, featuring Kendrick Lamar."

Big K.R.I.T. loves Denver, and he let the crowd know as much, stopping on five different occasions to tell the crowd, "This ain't my first time here, shorty. What's happening?" Indeed, K.R.I.T. seemed right at home here, having built a loyal following working closely with DJ Ktone, who was in attendance. Starting his set with "4 Eva N a Day," K.R.I.T. stopping after to address the crowd: "I know yall smoke good, drink good, so we good," he said. "But I gotta bang this right when I get here." Then he dropped into "Just Touched Down."

Filling the room with energy and an aggressive demeanor in his performance, K.R.I.T. had the crowd jumping with him as he went into songs like "Rotation," and "My Sub."

The pairing K.R.I.T. with Kweli was a genius move. Despite their contrast in topic matter, K.R.I.T. displayed his high-level stage show for the hip-hoppers while drawing in many fans that may not usually come out to see Kweli on his own.

The highlight of K.R.I.T.'s set was when he joked with the crowd, "Don't you hate when you see that dude that act like he the shit, and you think 'You thought you were the only one?' and turn to him and say, 'Naw, player," as he went into "Only One." Ending his set with "Country Shit," Big K.R.I.T. left no doubt that he is a star in his own right and will be around for a long time to come.

Before the headliners, Foodchain rocked a well-received set with a swagger that silently screamed "this is our house." With the full team of producers on stage, Champion Sound Killa Black walked on stage with a mascot head on to the laughter of the crowd. Mo Heat and Mass Prod showcased their impeccable skills on the boards, with C-1 and FL assisting Champion. FL rocked a few songs from his new release Limbo, but the highlight of the set was a song called "Crash," where CSKB quietly demanded the attention of the crowd. Mo heat impressed with his ability to simulate a live electric-guitar solo with the keyboard and pitch bender.

Alex Chadwick provided some needed diversity to the openers with a soulful display of hip-hop songs. He rapped with gracious realism in his lyrics, which, although laced with the realism of life, were not overbearing with very palatable sound. BMBC, a trendy group from Boulder, was surprisingly good for young group and had a very trap-like song "Kush in My Cigarillo," that was enjoyable. The addition of the sultry voice of Mandy Yoches singing "Killing Me Softly" brought the show back inside after the first openers, who seemed young and experienced, all but killed the vibe on what was an otherwise entertaining night.


Personal Bias: Having seen Talib several times in the last few years, I was a bit burned out on him, but I was impressed with this show and am still a big fan. Random Detail: Someone got dropped trying to crowd surf during K.R.I.T.'s set. By the Way: It seems like Outkast is the default transition music at every Cervantes' show.

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