Ed Dittenhoefer/Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y. — Thousands of fans attended Talib Kweli’s performance on the Ithaca Commons on Thursday night.

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During the show, Kweli paused from the music to deliver an impassioned speech about the importance of Black Lives Matter — and the inextricable link between the activist movement and the message of his music for over two decades.

“We live in times when people try to separate the art from the struggle. They try to separate the hip-hop from the people; they think they can enjoy the hip-hop but not have to deal with what the creators of the hip-hop have to deal with,” he said.  “You can’t separate the art from the struggle. You can never do that.”

Kweli was also interrupted at one point — it wasn’t immediately clear how or by who — and appeared to order the ejection of a fan who he later said had thrown shoes on the Commons stage. Kweli followed the ejection with a call and response with the audience, as he said “Get the (expletive) out, Miley!” — apparently the girl resembled Miley Cyrus? —  and was echoed back by hundreds of fans yelling at the concert-goer.

Ed Dittenhoefer/Ithaca Voice

Below is a rush transcript of Kweli’s speech, which he began by tying the song “Knowledge of Self” — off of his critically acclaimed 1998 album with Mos Def — to current protest movements.

I hope to have some more thoughts on the concert for the Ithaca Voice tomorrow.

(Just a head’s up: There’s a few curse words in the below transcript, so don’t read on if that stuff bothers you.)

Talib Kweli: “We were saying that young people of color, that young oppressed people have value — they have to understand their lives. They have to understand their lives are worth something. Their lives have value. … And you can’t have that knowledge without knowledge of self.”

“So what we were essentially saying on the Black Star album 20 years ago was no different than what Harry Belafonte was saying, no different than what Nina Simone was saying. What we were saying was that Black Lives Matter. That’s what we were saying. So if you believe in Black Star, you believe that Black Lives Matter — that’s just how it goes.”

Talib Kweli on the Commons Thursday night. Photo by Jeff Lower/Ithaca Voice.


“We live in times when people try to separate the art from the struggle. They try to separate the hip-hop from the people; they think they can enjoy the hip-hop but not have to deal with what the creators of the hip-hop have to deal with. You can’t separate the art from the struggle. You can never do that. Because we live in a society that tells us that  black people can be murdered in the streets by the police; we live in a society that tells us that black people’s lives don’t matter … So, do you know what we say? We say black lives matter, too. We say that black lives matter, also. We say black lives matter also.” 


“What we do not say is ‘black lives only matter’ because we’re not about that bullshit. We do not say is that we hate anybody. We do not say death to police or any of this right-wing conservative bullshit …”

At this point, Kweli appeared to order a young woman to leave the crowd.

Kweli: “It’s about showing solidarity … Bye Miley Cyrus, peace. Everybody say, ‘Bye Miley!’

Crowd: “Bye Miley.”

Kweli: “Say, ‘Get the fuck out, Miley!’”

Crowd: “Get the fuck out, Miley!’”

Kweli: “And take your booty ass shoes, Miley! See, someone like that is a fucking coward. … That’s a coward right there; that’s a coward right there. Anybody whose (inaudible) when people of color or any group of people stands up for themselves if you’re threatened by that you’re a coward. I know a lot of white brothers and sisters who stand in solidarity for what the fuck I am saying.”

“…You don’t go to a funeral and say, ‘Why are you so upset? Everybody dies.’ Some of you don’t get that I’ll make it a little bit more easy. You don’t stand up at a cancer rally and say, ‘All diseases matter.’ What do you say? You say, ‘Fuck cancer.’ You don’t say, ‘I have a heart disease, what about me? You say, ‘Fuck cancer.’ It’s called solidarity. How many people believe in solidarity? If you believe in solidarity you hear people say, ‘What about black on black violence?’ What about white on white violence? Crime is crime. People kill and murder and harm the people next to them don’t let the media tell you black people are more violent, that black people are criminals and white people are not … don’t let the media deceive you on that. Black on black crime get the fuck out; that’s nonsense; that’s nonsense; that’s nonsense; that’s nonsense. Word is bond.

“…On this record, ‘Knowledge of Self,’ the first line is, ‘So many MCs focus on black people extermination we need it balanced with that knowledge of self determination. The most popular album I ever put out was called ‘Get By.’ The fist line is: ‘We sell crack to our own out the back of our homes.’ So don’t come here and tell me our community don’t care about black on black violence. You don’t care. You’re using it as an excuse for your apathy because you sit on your couch and don’t do shit.

“You don’t care about black lives! You only say ‘all lives’ as a dismissal of ‘Black Lives Matter.’ You don’t care! You don’t care. Stop pretending that you care because we see through you. Everybody who stands in solidarity with that, make some noise right now.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.