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Talib Kweli (and friends) at Brooklyn Bowl

by Steven Pisano

  Talib Kweli

Brooklyn’s own Talib Kweli, a star in the world of hip hop for almost a generation now, brought his expanding hip hop universe to Brooklyn Bowl for two nights last week, spotlighting some of the talent now recording for his new independent music label, Javotti Media. As Kweli turns 40 years old this year, he clearly has plans to continue having an impact beyond his own recording career by supporting young, up-and-coming talent.

On Thursday, the music kept coming for four hours, so the sold-out crowd definitely got its money’s worth. First up was MK Asante, who rapped stories from his best-selling memoir Buck (published by Random House) about growing up on Philadelphia’s tough-luck streets, to find his place now as a professor of creative writing at Morgan State University.

MK Asante

Jessica Care MooreJessica Care Moore regally controlled the room like a queen with her eloquent, poetic songs of life on the streets of Harlem and Detroit (her home town). Moore also acted informally as the MC for the evening, taking the stage between acts.

20150702-DSC_5451-4K’Valentine, out of Chicago, was dolled up to look like a cutie, but rarely have I heard such an acid-tongued singer. She was spitting poison-tip bullets, some aimed at hypocritical men, some aimed at the gun-violent streets of her native city, which she outlines the horrors of in her song “Chiraq.”

Steffanie Christ'ianHard rock singer Steffanie Christi'an was the only performer from outside the hip hop community. With her Tina Turner-like voice and her blond braids flying everywhere, she had a powerful stage presence. The only thing she seemed to be lacking was a band to back her up; if I had a band, I'd sign her up yesterday.

NIKO ISNow living in Orlando, but originally from Rio de Janeiro, NIKO IS raps very fast about sex and smoking dope. Lots and lots of dope. With a raspy voice, some big hair, and a goatee, he bounced around the stage, sometimes sat down cross-legged on the floor, or leaned so far out over the lip of the stage he almost fell off a couple of times. During the show, he was rapping so fast, he made that guy in the old Fed Ex commercials sound like he was talking at 78 rpm. But, looking at some videos, especially those produced by Thanks Joey, it was easier to see why NIKO IS has been gaining some attention.

The evening also saw a steady stream of brief guest turns, including collaborators from back in the day when Talib Kweli hooked up with Mos Def to make up the group Black Star.

New talent, old talent. Past, present, and future. Talib Kweli clearly wants everyone to know that the story continues.

(All photos by Steven Pisano. More photos here.)