Culture Club (Ghent), 20/05/09
Now, it took me a looong time to write this one down. For different reasons, I always postponed it.
Talib Kweli was in town. He was not performing concert-wise, he was hosting a dj-set in Culture Club, Ghent. Now, I’m not so keen anymore on artists making a quick buck spinning records for 60 minutes, I mean, I’d never had the honor and pleasure to see Talib Kweli perform in concert and I prefer that option in al honesty. But, it’s crisis for everybody, you have to be grateful for what is given to you.
Of course, like I mentioned before, club appearances enhance my chances for a Polaroid picture. It was the beginning of a long weekend in May and there were a lot of parties going on in different places in the country. The people who came to Culture Club that night, came for Talib Kweli. Period. There were no accidental party crashers in the public. Like I said, too much going on. Too many options.
You might or might not know that Talib Kweli is a much respected artist in the game, he has been repeatedly labeled a ‘concious rapper’ with mad rhyme skills and social colored lyrics. Coming out with the highly critically acclaimed BLACK STAR album with Mos Def, moving on with High-Tek to becoming one day a name by himself speaking out to the world through his Blacksmith label and blog.
Above all, Talib Kweli has an opinion, and he is not afraid to let the world know what that is. For me, an all day learning music freak in a genre that touches me the most for some strange reason, he is somebody to respect first of all. Like Hov’ said; “If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.” Nuf said. right?
So there I was standing in the Culture Club ready for a moment to take my Polaroid. I observed the threesome behind the decks for a while. There was weed. There was Hennessy. There was good music. Talib rhyming from time to time. There was a chill atmosphere, the set list consisted of good, no nonsense hip hop. Then the following events occurred: DJ Chaps started to play the intro of the ‘T.I. – Rihanna’ song ‘Live Your Life’. The public that was until then just nodding their heads, bumping up and down, responded with enthusiasm, cheering and ther were ready to dance. That’s when things got all opinionated… Talib Kweli and the DJ immediately turned down the music and started to question the audience’s reaction for the song, since they -clearly- stood not behind it, the music was not -real hiphop- and the people (me and 200 folks @ culture club) should realise that or go away, because that ‘shit is crap’.
I swear. Nobody really knew how to react and for a split second, everybody froze. Luckily they relaunched the music and the atmosphere changed again. Now…If I can be opinionated for once…? I understand that you might like or dislike certain genres in music and that you have opinions on what is good or more important -real- in that specific genre. But truth be told, a club on the beginning of a long weekend is just not the place to do so. When you are in a club, people will react positively to ‘easy’ music.
I mean, I felt almost ashamed moving my hips a bit to the right during the intro of the song and Jules her hands that were in the air, were moving subtly to her head, scratching her ear, and I bet the rest of the crowd felt the same way. Honestly, it intimidated me. I didn’t expect it. And for some reason, it bothered me. So I froze. I was standing there, watching them get lavished by the Hennesy, and high by the weed spinning good music. (It is what it is. The set was good)
All of a sudden a man who was with Talib Kweli & DJ CHAPS left the DJ-booth. He was clearly taking a leak and I was holding tight, ready for him when he came back. Little did I know, he had a mic with him… So the moment I approach him with my iTouch , he started to yell in it for all the club to hear. “Hold On, this chick wants to ask me something”. I was ready to throw my heels off and run bare foot the hell out of the club, straight under the covers of my warm and safe bed. Why did he had to do that!? So, I swallowed my pride and showed him all the artist I snapped on Polaroid so far. The Man: “Ow yeah, Questlove, That’s Q-Tip! yeah, Black Thought, right, GZA, uhu, Uhmm That dude I don’t know, Uhmm Pharrell? Ow I see….SO?!!” and he went back behind the decks. Not only did he respond to the polaroids like a Pictionary quiz, he just did not give a damn.
And… I froze again. I froze, for almost the rest of the set. Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun and enjoying the music, but Polaroid wise, my legs were simply not heading towards Talib Kweli, nor did my fingers aim for his right shoulder, while my lips were supposed to burst out following words: “Mr, Kweli, can I please take a Polaroid picture?” Nope. That was simply not the case. I owe my picture to one man and one man only. DJ GUS looked at me and asked me if I took my picture yet, took me by the hand and briefed Talib Kweli for me. He dragged me behind the DJ-booth (he is a DJ, he knows people, so he can do that, it comes with the job.) and told me, “go on miss, do your thing” and left me standing their all shy. I shook hands with Mr Kweli, introduced myself in the most polite matter and showed him my iTouch so he could immediately understand what I wanted.
We are in a club, the bass is pounding and the beat is hard, there is nothing sexy in yelling at an artist while asking him for a Polaroid. Big No No. He glanced at the pictures with his left eye and quickly said: “Yeah yeah it’s all good.” Auwtch. It always hurts me a little bit when they react in a way that they simple do not care. I try to understand, I mean, how many lunatics a day do they encounter? Of course, I got more nervous and more intimidated. I have that. I can’t help it. I asked him where he wanted to take the picture, and he looked right in my eyes and said: “Here.”
Now let me explain you what ‘here’ exactly ment. ‘Here’ is the Culture Club DJ booth, approximately 1 meter vertically and maximum 3 maybe 4 meters long. Add DJ CHAPS spinning his records with heavy various movements a DJ is supposed to make, piles of recordbags, (I’m sorry, I don’t know the correct name for this, please enlighten me) the POPquiz man and some girls from his entourage, barely any light and no space to take a good picture whatsoever wìth the eyes of the audience pinching in my back like a thousand needles. I was fucking stressing out, you can not even imagine. He was sitting on a recordbag, I aimed and prayed for the love of god that I did it right.
3.2.1. Flashing. Lights. Snap.
3.2.1. Flashing. Lights. Snap.
I thanked him, and while I was waiting for the pictures to show up, I noticed my second Polaroid remained black…. My baby does that sometimes. Talib already moved places and I totally freaked out. I felt that he was not very approachable and that I was obliged to take another picture. He was standing right next to me but he was chill and laid-back and I felt that I could not disturb him. So I died a little inside when I asked him again, showing my black Polaroid, giving him all the Bambi my eyes could give.. I felt like a freak. He sighed, nodded and looked in my camera. There was – again – no way in suggesting him to position him elsewhere so, again, I had to be grateful by what was given to me. (But I was cursing inside, better believe)
I snapped the picture and well…it was not what I wanted. There were people on my polaroid! I hate when that happens. I like a beautiful, lonesome, white, yellow, sky blue walls with just my subject on it. Since I could not even suggest him to go to an empty white wall and take the picture in a slightly more chill atmosphere, I had to take pictures in the dark, now…this is what you get. I told him I was not happy with my result, and I really, politely asked him, if I might have a final shot, but he declined my demand and told me he was chill and did not feel like posing anymore.
When right after me a couple of chicks asked him to pose with him on a digital camera, there was no problem there. Digital cameras and chicks. My biggest opponents. Ask an artist for a duo-picture, he will say yes, ask him for a solo one. He most likely will say no. They just know what they are worth. I accepted and respected his answer and put my camera away. That is part of the deal. When you get a no, you respect that. Again. There is nothing sexy in begging.
Jules was dancing to Jay-Z’s Dirt Off Your Shoulders and while leaving the DJ bar, Talib Kweli did exactly that, dusting off Jules’ shoulders. And he left. I was tired, exhausted and disappointed. I went to the toilet and started to cry. There you have it. I cried. Because I did not have my picture the way I wanted it to. Because Mr Kweli did not react the way I wanted him to. It started out with having a Polaroid picture in the first place… now it went further by me, perfectionist that I am, wanting the perfect Polaroid picture. Me wanting to control circumstances that are simply not controllable.
Jules brought me back with my two feet on earth and told me to to remind myself where the project started. Instead of running myself by, aiming for goals that are hard to achieve… Taking it step by step. So I dried my tears and we went home, grateful with what we achieved that night in very hard circumstances. Because at least, I tried.
PS: Talib Kweli stated the next day on his twitter account that the Culture Club flyer was awful and said that there should be a way that he should have more control over these sort of things in future. He clearly did nòt like the flyer enough to mention it on his twitter page… (To the person that made the flyer, I’m sorry, but that’s what was on his twitter) I suggest you make your own personal opinion on this one, I’d like to say: ‘Les gouts et les couleurs….’
Now I wonder what he would think of my polaroids if he happens to see them one fine day… ahum. In that case. I can only say the following:
Dearest Mr Kweli,
I would be happy to provide you a better and even prettier picture right before or after
àny of your concerts, hopefully soon to come in Belgium and with that new album coming out with old pal
Hi-Tek ‘Eternal Reflection-Back Again’ that might not even sound that crazy right?
It’s Polaroid. It’s a snap of a brief moment.
This moment happened to be at 04h00 in the morning with some Hennessy in the vains and some Sensimillia in the lungs in a warm club in Belgium.
What can I say?
Nothing but Love,