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Talib Kweli... SummerStage... Brooklyn... First day of summer... For free! What else could a New York hip hop head ask for? Talib Kweli rocked Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park as part of the ongoing 2011 SummerStage concert series, presented by the New York City Arts Foundation.

Talib Kweli at Red Hook Park – SummerStage Concert Recap [Photos, Video]

Talib Kweli SummerStageBrooklyn… First day of summer… For free! What else could a New York hip hop head ask for? Talib Kweli rocked Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park and Birthplace Magazine’s Steven Ortiz was in the house to document the free concert, part of the ongoing 2011 SummerStage concert series, presented by the New York City Arts Foundation.

SummerStage Concert Series - NYC Parks - Talib Kweli at Red Hook Park

A nice sized crowd gathered on the park’s football field and enjoyed an evening of hip hop to celebrate the beginning of summer and the first of the SummerStage shows at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park.  Not unlike any other park gathering where folks lay down blankets, engage in stimulating conversation and mill about, people came to relax and enjoy a pre-dusk concert free of admission charges, age restrictions or dress codes.

The SummerStage concert series, presented by the City Parks Foundation, brings free concerts to city parks in all five boroughs. The series, which runs from June 7th to September 2nd, began with a roaring start. As the season continues, the largest free performing arts festival in the city will provide a plethora of great hip hop shows. Still on the horizon, Slick Rick, Kool Moe Dee, Cold Crush Brothers, Rakim and more all have dates in the parks this summer.

For this event, Talib Kweli, accompanied by a keyboardist, bassist, drummer, and DJ, ran through his catalogue of socially conscious tracks, spit a few freestyles and dropped some verses from his famed collaborations with Mos Def (Black Star) and Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal). Kweli even came out for an encore, as the Red Hook crowd beckoned for more by chanting his name, prompting his quick return to the stage, jumping into an exhilarating performance of perhaps his best known song, “Get By.” Shouting out Brooklyn on numerous occasions, Kweli proved to the crowd that he continues to proudly represents the borough to the fullest.

Click here for more photos of Talib Kweli at Red Hook Park

I’ve seen Talib Kweli perform a number of times to varied results, but this was by far the best Kweli show I’ve witnessed. Talib Kweli is probably the best lyricist I’ve heard on wax that never really delivered for me in a live format, until this show. I’ve always looked at Kweli as a studio rapper, but after this performance, I realized that the bad microphones and muddled sound that can sometimes accompany indoor shows were to blame. The quality of the soundstage was top notch, Kweli sounded crisp and the backing live band really complimented his mic skills.

The expansive crowd was on its best behavior and it is worth nothing that personally, the more New York area hip hop shows I attend, the more I realize that the violence and rowdy behavior that unfortunately marred many a hip hop performance in the past, contributing to a decrease in live rap shows over the years, has virtually disappeared. Times have changed for the better and it appears that people have matured and understand deeply that if fans leave the nonsense at home, this will afford them an opportunity to see more great hip hop shows.

The SummerStage concert series is a perfect example of this, and is nothing less than a pure gift from the city, providing quality performers in spacious outdoor settings for the remainder of the summer, all free of charge.

Click here for more photos of Talib Kweli at Red Hook Park

Check out BirthplaceMag.com’s NY-area Hip Hop Events Calendar for more SummerStage hip hop, and for information about all the shows on the SummerStage calendar, visit www.summerstage.org.

About Steven Ortiz

Senior Writer Steven Ortiz has been covering hip hop in the NY-area for Birthplace Magazine almost since it's official inception back in 2009. He resides up in the Bronx, where the people are fresh.
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