Rap Revolutionaries Old and New

Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli

The visiting hip-hop scene has thrived this past year in Eugene, with rap revolutionaries — ranging from Sir Mix-A-Lot to J. Cole — stopping by on tour nearly every weekend.

Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique are the next two legends that will pass through town. If you enjoy lyrical hip hop with a political message and an empowering purpose, you’ll want to mark your calendar and make your way to WOW Hall for this show. Kweli is best known for his iconic work with Mos Def on Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998), but the prolific rapper has also worked with The Roots and Madlib, and he even founded his own record label, Javotti Media, in 2012.

Kweli might be a Brooklyn-based rapper but, after 20 years of touring, he says he always enjoys this leg of the tour. “The Pacific Northwest is a very big hip-hop crowd,” he says. “You have people that really support their artists.”

Technique, on the other hand, looks forward to the “out-of-control” college students and a “high energy” from fans of all ages. He remembers the UO fondly after giving a lecture about activism on campus in November 2011. When he spoke to EW in February, Technique said he booked two or three appearances to speak on college campuses for this tour as well.

“Those students are totally willing to have an open conversation,” says Technique, who adds that he’d like to speak in Eugene again if he were contacted and could make it work with his schedule. “Most people in school are there so they know they’re going to learn something.”

“College kids stay loyal to the people they discover in college,” Kweli notes. “You perform right, you get a fan for life.”

While Technique describes Kweli as the “elder statesman” of New York underground hip hop, Kweli says he’s just as eager to tour with Technique. Kweli adds that this tour will allow him to explore a more political side of his performing identity.

“We want to be able to facilitate that conversation in a constructive way,” Technique says. “We want to be the narrators of our own story.”

When asked to name the next artists who will pioneer their own story, both artists plugged young emerging label mates. Technique went with Hasan Salaam; Kweli stressed NIKO IS was “one of the best artists” he has ever heard.

Both Salaam and NIKO IS will join Kweli and Technique on The People’s Champion tour, so you’ll want to arrive early for all the opening acts and stay for both headliners.

“We’re injecting so much content that we’ve become jaded when it comes time to discover something new,” Kweli says. “Sometimes we don’t pay attention until the buzz happens.”

Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique perform with NIKO IS, CF and Hasan Salaam 9 pm Thursday, March 19, at WOW Hall; $22 adv., $25 door. All ages. — Bryan Kalbrosky

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