A fortnight ago, Talib Kweli came to Kenya for a much anticipated concert at the Ebony Lounge in Nairobi. This was courtesy of the Nairobi Hip Hop Rapsody event that happens at the same venue every Thursday evening.
Nairobi Hip Hop Rapsody has been running for 2 years now and it was the first time they were bringing a non Kenyan to perform. The concert which was meant to be a small intimate session with Nairobi’s hip hop fans, turned out to be anything other than intimate. Ebony Lounge is a laid back club whose ambiance promises you an evening of relaxed fun, a mature crowd and a great view of the Westlands bound traffic. The expected number of less than 300 soon surged to almost double that number one hour before Talib Kweli even graced the stage. By the time Muthoni the Drummer Queen and Kaligraph had warmed the stage, Talib had to perform while atop the DJ booth as the crowd surged forward abandoning their couches with some stepping on those couches to have a better look as the artist moved from one hit to another from his repertoire of over 10 albums.
Just a few days before Kweli went on his African tour, first to South Africa then Kenya before heading back home, he was at the A3C Hip Hop Festival where he together with Phoroahe Monch & 9th Wonder broke the news that they together with their respected conglomerates, along with like minded individuals, joined forces to from a new collective called “Indie 500″.
In an exclusive interview with OkayPlayer, this is what each of the individuals had to say about the new movement and what the inspiration behind it was.
9th Wonder on the Music
“Indie 500 is a kind of continuation of the Native Tongues sound all the way to the Rawkus sound. Badu, Jill Scott, Slum Village — anywhere that has that texture of sound that feels good with good lyrics — Indie 500 is a continuation of that and a new generation. We’re trying to continue on the tradition of classic — what they like to call ‘traditional’ — hip-hop. Grass roots, deep-rooted hip-hop music.”
Pharoahe Monch on the Business
“We looked at each other and we were like, we should do business together and music together. Not just on the rap side, but on the touring side, the business side and sharing of information. It’s empowering, it’s beautiful, and it’s important for that to be known. To inspire younger generations to not only rap, but to start companies and corporations.”
Talib Kweli on the Essence
“It’s everybody that we’re down with…anybody that has an independent mind state or spirit is Indie 500. It’s important for us, as artists, that we value the art, and we raise the value of art. So we state that we’re independent, that we’re black owned, we’re stating that we have value and you need to pay attention to us.”
Picking up of The Native Tongues
The Native Tongues is a collective of late 1980s and early 1990s hip-hop artists known for their positive-minded, good-natured Afrocentric lyrics, and for pioneering the use of eclectic sampling and later jazz-influenced beats. Its principal members are the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. The collective was also closely tied to the Universal Zulu Nation.
The black pride in this movement was evident in their lyrics, the names they chose for their collectives( Zulu Nation), stage names (Afrika Baby Bam) and where they often sought their inspiration from.
Indie 500 seeks to bring back the spirit of Native tongues and pick up from where that spirit was left off.
“Indie 500 is a kind of continuation of the Native Tongues sound all the way to the Rawkus sound. Badu, Jill Scott, Slum Village — anywhere that has that texture of sound that feels good with good lyrics — Indie 500 is a continuation of that and a new generation,” said 9th. “We’re trying to continue on the tradition of classic — what they like to call ‘traditional’ — Hip Hop. Grass roots, deep-rooted Hip Hop music.”
Our Own Native Tongues movement – Ukoo Flani Mau Mau
A subtle yet profound thing happened at the Ebony Lounge on that evening of 23rd. That was the first time that the group Kalamashaka was appearing for the first time in a Hip Hop event following their come back in to scene and enjoying the good reviews that their single Moi Avenue is receiving.
Ukoo Flani was part of our own version of The Native Tongue movement, the Ukoo Flani Mau Mau. In a lengthy and bitter post derived mainly from interviews held with the group’s former manager Nynke Nauta. The trio of Kalamashaka were the torch bearers for the Ukoo Flani movement. Their woes despite the massive success early on in their career eclipsed collective efforts from the movement and soon every artist was going into solo projects.
Kweli’s African Tour & the Future for Indie 500
I would like to believe that Talib Kweli’s tour of South Africa and Kenya strengthened his resolve in pressing on and in working with like minded individuals who still see the value and need to have what most will refer to as traditional Hip Hop that is deep rooted.
As I spent the last afternoon with him and his team, we went to the Maasai Market – Kenya’s well know market for Crafts & Curios. I caught a full glimpse of his Afrocentrism in the items he chose to buy and take back home him. I knew then that the same spirit that inspired The Native Tongues would inspire the Indie 500. His trip would not have come at a better time.
PS. Check out some of the nice photos that I took from the concert.