Talib Kweli: Great artist, but not for SpringFest


When Programming Board announced that they would be bringing in Talib Kweli as the headline artist for SpringFest on April 12, my initial reaction was to throw up a Tiger Woods-style fist pump in the middle of the Marketplace and excitedly text my mom and younger brother about the good news. Talib Kweli has long been one of my favorite artists, and the opportunity to see him live is something that I never thought I would have.

But as my enthusiasm settled and I began to think about and discuss the choice of artist with my peers, I came to the conclusion that as much as it pains me to say this Talib Kweli just is not the right fit for this event.

That conclusion comes without any knock on Talib Kweli’s talent as an MC. He has long been one of the most socially-conscious and potent lyricists in the game, and songs like “Ms. Hill” and “Get By” are classics. However, his quick, poetic style of delivery and mellowed-out, head-nodding beats will not mesh with the “turnt up” disposition that Occidental students will inevitably bring to his performance.

Since I have been at Occidental, SpringFest has been an opportunity for students to go a little wild and blow off steam. And with the concert being the only school-wide event this semester, I expect a good number of people to be highly intoxicated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some styles of music go hand-in-hand with an altered state of mind — it is really the only way that acts like 2 Chainz or Wiz Khalifa are even slightly tolerable.

But Talib Kweli is the type of artist that deserves, at least, a semi-sober audience that can fully understand and deconstruct the messages behind his lyrics. I have no doubt that my fellow classmates can fully appreciate his music, but I am not sure that is what they want to spend their SpringFest doing.

My lasting memory from the Common show my freshman year is not of the actual music, but of the unnecessarily rowdy mosh pit of a crowd. After making my way to the front row and finding other people more interested in enjoying the music, I had a great time. But if I had ended up stuck in the middle, it probably would have been a different story. Selfishly, I do not want my first experience seeing Talib Kweli live to be tainted by drunk students constantly pushing me in the back. This is not YG or Waka Flocka, people.

I think that Programming Board has done a great job in choosing SpringFest artists over the years. Common put on a very good performance and Macklemore, who admittedly is not my favorite rapper, had great stage presence and was very entertaining. I can only imagine the kind of shows that Snoop Dogg, Nas and Lupe Fiasco put on.

Talib Kweli will undoubtedly put on a good show also, but he is just a little too far off of the mainstream for many Occidental students. He is much better suited for performing at an intimate venue, in front of a knowledgeable fan base.

I am never one to listen to a particular artist because of popularity, and I probably cannot name a single song currently on the Top-40 pop charts. But I can still see the merit in hosting a more mainstream hip-hop or even EDM performance that will resonate with a larger percent of the student body, and where drunken debauchery would be less misplaced.

Or maybe, my fellow students will just prove me wrong when Talib Kweli takes that stage. I can only hope so.

Alex Nieves is a junior Diplomacy and World Affairs major. He can be reached at nievesa@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyANieves.