Monday, May 6
The Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh
The phone rang. It was Adria from Hip-Hop Heads, a local mag, asking if I wanted to do an interview with Talib Kweli. Despite having heard bad things about Kweli from my writer peers, I agreed--I was ready to show the nice side of the Gorilla Pimp. A few minutes later, my unexpected interview with Kweli was over. The five minutes went by fast--Kweli seemed more interested in Lil' Romeo's "It Takes Two" video, which was on BET Rap City at the time, than in talking to the press. Commenting on the clip, Kweli said he doesn't have any problems with young rappers because there's a young audience, but he doesn't always agree with some of the images in the videos.
"What's the deal with Rawkus (Kweli's label)?" I ask, to which he responded that it was just regular industry stuff, declining to elaborate. FYI: Rawkus, formerly funded by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and run by a Murdoch's son, closed in December and fired most of the staff; it's re-opening under MCA Records. Because of this, Kweli's projects have been put on hold. Also, longtime producer Hi Tek isn't producing any tracks for Kweli's new album and "hasn't been returning Kweli's calls lately," according to hip-hop mag XXL.
To sum up the rest of the interview: Kweli has a new album. He cares about his label mates and he usually performs with a live band. He also says, regarding Bush's proposed funding for private schools and such, that, unlike the way things went down with Ebonics teaching, parents and concerned people should not go through the system but do things themselves. He gave as examples home schooling and starting alternative schools run by people who "make change and don't wait for it."
In all fairness, some artists aren't good with the press. So I was hoping Kweli's live performance would make up for the interview.
With the doors at 8 p.m. and the show slated to start at 9 p.m., the audience was starting to get restless by 11 p.m. when Kweli still hadn't showed. To add to the bad vibe, opening act Blackalicious canceled at the last minute. Blackalicious and Phife Dawg were advertised on station K97.5, as well as the Lincoln Theatre's Web site and Kweli's own site, as opening the show. Instead, the crowd heard spins by local DJ Pez (of Sankofa) and Kweli's man, DJ Chaps.
Unbeknownst to the waiting fans, Kweli and his manager (who arrived late, according to the Lincoln Theatre's Pat Dickenson) were involved in a backstage scuffle with disgruntled fans. After talking to both bystanders and involved parties, it seems that an angered patron (Marcus Johnson) was complaining about the show, claiming that he didn't want to see Kweli but had come to see Blackalicious. Johnson was trying to get his money back when Kweli and his manager, "Boogie," walked in. The three exchanged words and the confrontation turned physical. Says Boogie: "We started fighting. Kwel comes to help me at the time and another guy comes out of nowhere and hit Kwel on the head with a beer bottle."
"The management of Talib Kweli kept yelling and cussing and threatening my friend over my shoulder," says Melissa Johnson (Marcus' sister and the only woman involved in the brawl). "He [Boogie] got dragged out the door twice. When he pushed his way back through the door, he picked up the trash can and he hit me across the head with it. Then he turned the can, dumped the trash on me--then he punched me in my left cheek."
Boogie's version of events roughly corroborates her story: "While I was going after one of the guys [who] was hitting Kwel in the head, this girl jumps in the middle. She kicks me one time--Ya know, bullshit! But, um, I threw the garbage can at her. That's at the point I picked up a garbage can and threw it at her--I am mad as hell."
The crowd first knew that something was wrong at 11:20 p.m. DJ Chaps was rockin' "Off the Wall" by Michael Jackson when a bald-headed, irate Kweli bum-rushed the stage, grabbed the mike and announced that "he and his man had gotten fucked with by security." Kweli ended the tirade by saying, "Fuck this!" and slamming the mike to the floor. Seconds later, a burly man ran out and chased Kweli through the crowd, which moved like a wave following the two. On stage, the DJ started breaking down and the show appeared to be off, so the crowd moved toward the door. But no one left; they just waited around, watching the police outside. Word changed; the show was still on. Around midnight, three hours after the listed show time, a disturbed-looking Kweli did take the stage and performed his set (his backup singers--two women who also do almost military-style dance moves--made the show).
I went downtown to cop the police report and see what really happened. The detective who was assigned to the case was on vacation, but since I am "media," a sergeant agreed to talk about the case. But he wasn't interested in going into detail because "brawls" happen all the time and no matter how much security and how many people are around, "brawls" will happen.Understand this: I don't like writing about fights. It makes hip hop look bad. For real, let's all grow up and use our minds not our fists.--K8 Erwin