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Music DVD Review: Talib Kweli – Live at the Shrine

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Talib Kweli has long been associated with the alternative hip-hop movement in America. His politically and socially conscious rhymes have been first-rate for years, ever since he met Mos Def and formed Black Star. With one of the best albums in hip-hop history to start his career in Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, the bar was set pretty damn high for the Brooklyn rapper.

Alternative hip-hop is what it is because the MCs are teachers, bringing the world to their lyrics and infusing their content with reality and awareness. When other rappers hit bars about bitches and platinum chains, MCs like Talib hit bars about refusing to kowtow and refusing to quit.

Kweli’s skills have been recognized the industry over, gaining repute and association from rappers like Jay-Z and Kanye West. His solo debut, 2002’s Quality, is considered a hip-hop classic by many for its tight rhymes and the West-produced track “Get By.” After founding Blacksmith Records in 2005, Kweli and business partner Corey Smyth began to assemble a crew of alternative rap acts including Jean Grae and Strong Arm Steady.

2007 saw the release of Talib Kweli’s third studio album, Eardrum. Once again greeted with considerable critical acclaim, the record charted well and gained Kweli significant mainstream success.

It was only natural, therefore, that a home video release was next on the docket. Live at the Shrine marks the MC’s first home video release and packs a bouncy Los Angeles concert alongside some insightful bonus features. It’s a great showpiece for the performer.

The live set showcases Kweli’s sense for hip-hop, allowing him the time and space to unleash his precise rhymes before a conscientious Cali crowd. As he rolls through tracks like “Say Something,” “Get Em High,” “Listen,” and the aforementioned hit “Get By,” it is apparent that Talib Kweli is one of the best live MCs in the music business.

As if that wasn’t enough, Blacksmith label-mates Strong Arm Steady join Kweli on stage for “One Step” and display their raw energy and serious flow on “Go With Us.” I know I’ll be checking out some Strong Arm Steady on my next trip to the record shop.

Philly’s Res also impresses with her slick abilities on “Too Late.” A part of Idle Warship with Kweli and Canadian Graph Nobel, we’ll be hearing a lot more of Res when the tentatively-titled Party Robot drops.

Rounding out the tremendous guest appearances on Live at the Shrine, the legendary KRS-ONE joins Kweli on stage. With Talib often sold as the next KRS-ONE, the pairing is compelling. The two roll with the punches and display immaculate chemistry in front of the animated crowd. KRS-ONE’s ability to lay down serious knowledge is on point, even as he’s caught off guard catching a shirt from the audience.

The DVD also packs in some bonus features, including “uncut” rehearsal footage and an Easter Egg freestyle from KRS-ONE and Kweli set to beats from a cell phone. KRS-ONE is featured in a brief interview discussing the Los Angeles crowd and how he views himself as a servant of the people and a teacher in hip-hop. There is also a short Talib Kweli interview.

All in all, this DVD is a must-have for fans of alternative hip-hop and real rap. The performance is tight and the bonus features are well worth a look. With a hot crowd, brilliant lyrics, and the can’t-miss pairing of Kweli and KRS-ONE, you gotta be Live at the Shrine.

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