“Hip-Hop is spontaneous!” chanted the crowd at The Lyric Theatre on Thursday evening in Lexington. Local rapper, Sheisty Khrist had just induced the most accommodating mosh pit ever as he performed within the crowd, rather than elevated on the stage. Khrist took to the mic, rapping over hard, drum-heavy beats only to cut the music several times to share his lyrics acapella in order to help get his message across. “You can’t cut the music at a rock show,” stated Khrist, “you do that, and the show’s over.” That was far from the case at the Lyric as Sheisty proved before passing the mic off to the next openers, the Cincinnati duo Space Invadaz.
Donning laser beaming glasses, Space Invadaz wasted no time hyping up the crowd with several tracks off their new EP, Contact. Throughout the set the duo blazed through Hi-Tek-produced bangers, leaving little time between songs to catch a breath even for themselves.
Taking the stage unceremoniously, Talib Kweli strolled into The Lyric with the confidence of a seasoned MC. Kweli is an American hip-hop artist known for his impeccable lyricism and positive, activism-driven brand of rap. With a minimal stage set up consisting only of a DJ scratching vinyl paired with a Macbook, Kweli filled the remainder of the stage with energy and crowd engagement.
Not sticking to a particular album, or even era of releases, Kweli dipped deep into his catalogue, which included a lot of solo material, hits from his collaborative effort, Black Star with Mos Def, as well as reworkings of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” > “Lonely People” that really seemed to resonate with the crowd.
In true Talib Kweli form, he took several breaks in the set to share his message of racial equality, especially as it pertains to the Black Lives Matter Movement. He noted that when people say “Black Lives Matter” it’s not to say that other lives do not matter, rather, one should realize that just because you have a different world view than your neighbor does’t make their struggle any less real or important. It was a poignant moment that brought the crowd to agree in near dead silence before applauding the artist’s remarks.
The revamped Lyric Theater was a perfect venue for the artists that performed. Their talent, message and fun, energetic stage presence is just the kind of acts the theater stands for. The balance struck between entertainment and activism certainly kept the energy high while delivering important messages. Indeed, this wasn’t your typical hip-hop show, but then again, the best hip-hop is spontaneous.