all photos: Michael Starghill
I was in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, and since then it seems like everyone in music right now is repping this city. While there I saw ATL transplant (and Kansas City émigré, woot woot) Janelle Monae perform. I’ve had T.I.’s “Paper Trail” on heavy rotation in my iTunes for weeks. And with new videos from ATLiens Luda, Alfamega, and Yung Jeezy, plus that episode of “Hoodfab, ATL” on repeat on MTV Jams like every hour– I’ve got Georgia on my mind.
So its fitting that newcomer B.o.B., who reps the eastside of Atlanta, opened for Talib Kweli and David Banner on the latest stop of the Hip Hop Live tour on Monday at the 9:30 Club. The 19-year old, who recently snagged the cover of XXL magazine with DC’s own Wale, held it down with the more established acts on his first ever tour in support of his new album, “12th Difference.”
While definitely talented and a strong entertainer, he seemed lacking in originality. In particular his single “I’ll Be In the Sky,” sounds a bit too close to “the Whole World”-era Outkast for my blood, and his sidekick Playboy Tre was certainly no Big Boi. He especially lost points for me when he tried to play guitar. While the “good rapper cum shitty guitarist” trope is kind of a pet peeve of mine, even so – if you didn’t notice, B.o.B., you are surrounded by the Rhythm Roots Allstars, the ultimate live hip hop band against whom you look amateurish. You’ll do well to stick to rapping and singing.
Next up, dirty south graduate David Banner showed he could both rap and control the maestro. And scale a 15 foot wall and mosh and do some back flips and make some ladies really uncomfortable by trying to pull them up on stage with him when they’d really rather get down on tha flo. He said he felt a connection with DC, being the only other place where his album, “Mississippi: the Album,” hit number one on the charts other than his native state. In return he showed a LOT of energy and tried his darndest to get the sleepy, school night crowd to give him back some love. Sorry, Hip Hop Live, we have to work tomorrow.
But Talib Kweli taught the master class; he schooled DC in what hip hop can be, namely smooth, free-flowing, and meaningful. Because he is more of a lyricist (like photog Michael said), compared to the bluesy quirkiness and thugged-out bravado of the other two performers, I thought the live band best complimented Kweli’s style. And IMHO, Talib Kweli has impeccable style.
B.o.B., Tre, Banner, and Kweli all came back on stage for an encore block of iconic verses from the likes of Black Sheep (“you can get with this/or you can get with that”), Sugarhill Gang (“hip hip hop you don’t stop…”), Ice Cube (“I gotta go cuz I got me a drop top/and if I hit the switch I can make that ass drop”), which all hold a special place on my internal “Abby’s awesome forever bat mitzvah party playlist of jamz 3000 heart.” After that, I’ve got to say it was a good show.
Start to finish, from ATL to old Miss and NYC to DC, Hip Hop Live is a tour de force not to be missed.