Talib Kweli got all hip-hop scholarly this past Friday as the keynote speaker for the spring Sankofa Lecture Series at Metropolitan State College of Denver. The event was designed to focus on the anthropology of hip-hop, and Kweli, who was succinct and clear with his message, was absolutely dynamic on stage as he mused on the ins and outs of history, education and hip-hop.
The house was packed as Kweli took to the podium, opening up about his own history, the meaning of his name, his quest for knowledge and how his love for hip-hop was honed throughout his years growing up in New York City. The MC was funny, (he made several sly jokes about radio music -- "Rack City" rap superstar Tyga, to be exact) and brought the politics of rap full circle.
Quoting Stokely Carmichael, Kweli talked in depth about the ways in which hip-hop is used as a means of political resistance and a catalyst for real change in our communities. Giving insight into his relationships with Mos Def, Jay-Z, Diddy, Kanye West and others, Kweli was clear about the direction of conscious hip-hop and more mainstream rap, saying conscious rap doesn't have to be underground, and vice versa.
The audience hung on his every word as he discussed with elegance the culture of hip-hop in its earliest form. Earlier in the day, Kweli was treated to several hip-hop history presentations in a private session with students from Dr. B. Afeni McNeely Colbham's hip-hop class. Talib was clearly taken with the presentation on the evolution of Kanye West, as evidenced by his feedback and validation of the students' points in Kanye's career.
Kweli facilitated a roundtable discussion on each student's presentation (an overview of the Nation of Gods and Earth's, the impact on hip-hop in the political sphere, and more), giving the students an opportunity to ask for his opinion on different aspects of the rap world.
We all know Talib Kweli as the MC with fierce rhymes and impeccable knowledge, yet his presence on campus showed he is as much an academic and philosopher of life as he is an avid MC. The Sankofa Lecture Series is an initiative of the Department of African American Studies at Metro State; the goal of the series is addressing inequities in our society.
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