Published Jun 06, 2010No matter what hip-hop show you go to, you're bound to hear something about the genre being "in the building" that evening, as if hip-hop were some enigmatic figure whose presence could only be felt by genre purists. It comes with the territory.
So it was nice to feel like that statement rang true at a show, albeit just once. Of course, both openers — MCs Shaun Booth and Miles Jones — professed that hip-hop was "in the house tonight," but neither convinced. While Jones provided able lyricism with pretty standard (and sometimes boring) production, it was Booth who truly offended, especially during a fake-but-nonetheless-revolting session of phone sex, during which he rapped without irony about, among other things, "jerkin' profusely."
Thus, it wasn't until Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek stormed the stage at midnight that one might reasonably consider hip-hop to be in the Sound Academy — and my, was it in fine form. Kweli's verbal dexterity was on show for the packed house, which was first treated to an energetic opening medley of "Move Somethin'," "Down for the Count" and "Eternalists" from the duo's landmark debut Train of Thought. One would think such an excellent trio would be hard to match, but with Kweli's engaging stage presence and Hi-Tek's constant stage-travelling (he was relieved from turntable duty a number of times by a Cincinnati DJ peer), the two were able to keep the momentum for a whopping 26-song setlist.
The show could be considered less an official Reflection Eternal show than a showcase for both musicians. Kweli blazed through a number of songs from his solo LPs ("Listen!!," "Get By") and, indeed, from his stellar Black Star collaboration album with Mos Def ("Respiration," "Definition/Re:Definition"), while Tek was honoured with a mid-show mix of some of his best non-Kweli beats. The interlude was preceded by a brief but genuine tribute to the recently deceased Guru, which included a shout out to fellow Gang Starr member DJ Premier who, as Kweli claimed, was one of the world's two "super-producers."
The other, of course, was Hi-Tek, and after an hour and a half's worth of sonic proof, not a single attendee would argue. Nor could they possibly deny that hip-hop was, as they say, "in the building." For that one night, it had to be.