Talib Kweli arrived at the Occupy Wall
Street demonstration at New York's Liberty Plaza last night and
immediately took to Twitter: "Now this is the New York City I love," he wrote.
And indeed, this was a New York City that loved him as well. Kweli
spent the evening exploring the premises and learning about the cause,
and before he left for the night, he delivered an inspired a cappella
performance that emphasized love and community.
"I couldn't come back to my home town and not check this out," Kweli told Rolling Stone
before his performance (watch video below), standing before a scattered
collection of protest signs lying on the ground. "I didn't realize that
this was something that was meant to last, with no end. It's
self-sufficient and is connecting people to people. It's beautiful."
politically oriented podcast by comic Jamie Kilstein and journalist
Allison Kilkenny, was responsible for Kweli's presence on the grounds.
The three had become friends after Kweli started listening to the
podcast, and before Kweli took the makeshift stage in the center of the
demonstrators, Kilstein performed his own racially charged routine that
directly attacked the hypocrisies in our culture, encouraging the
protestors with the fact that "first cameras came to mock you, now they
can't f**king ignore you."
Then it was Kweli's turn - and he delivered. He had one major
message: It's time for us to focus. In his first rhyme, a freshly
written piece called "Distraction," he criticized our current culture's
priorities: "Skip the religion and politics, head straight to the
compassion," he rapped. "Everything else is a distraction." But once he
finished, at the request of the crowd, he popped right back up - this
time, with a poignant rendition of Blackstar's "Thieves in the Night."
By the end of the a cappella cut the protestors had joined in, repeating
the refrain together: "Hidin' like thieves in the night from life /
Illusions of oasis makin' you look twice."
But that still wasn't all. The people wanted more, and Kweli
sheepishly grinned as he obliged. To close the night, he instigated a
crowd-response with an emphasis on humanity. "I'm at a loss for words,"
he shouted, and the demonstrators echoed each syllable. "But even my
loss is amplified." He went on and ordered that every person with a
"camera, computer, phone, or voice" needs to "do [their] job" and spread
the word. "This is the end game. We have to grow."
Photos by Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com