Last night, at the “Rock to Save Darfur Concert-Benefit,” City Councilman Eric Gioia told Talib Kweli that he’d like to replace Mos Def as the other half of Blackstar. Kweli laughed and shook his head.
Gioia was at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Times Square, along with a handful of hip-hop artists and human rights activists, as one of the sponsors of a City Council resolution asking the New York City pension fund to divest from Sudan.
“I’ve been working on this for about two years, and its kind of a lonely fight,” Gioia told me backstage before he addressed the crowd.
I asked him why he was interested in the issue.
“Other than I care about justice and human rights?” Gioia asked. “I mean, that’s it. There’s really no local angle to it. We’re a global capital [New York], and I still get that all the time, like, ‘Where is this place?’
“But,” he went on. “The words ‘never again’ have never rang so hollow as they do today. This the first genocide that’s happened in real time.”
Kweli was a bit less focused on Darfur. Before he performed, I asked him why he was there. “The type of music that I make, people automatically associate with this,” he said, gesturing to indicate the scene around us. “They just called my office.”
It’s not that he doesn’t care about Darfur, it’s more that he thinks there are many worthy causes.
“All around the world there are things that are equally as disturbing, we need to raise our voices for all of these things.”
On the divestment resolution, he was reserved.
“Its very easy to sign your name to all type of things, it’s much harder to actually live by that,” he said.
During his performance, Kweli stopped mid-song (after reprimanding the audience for not knowing the words to KRS-One’s “Black Cop”) to comment on someone in the front row wearing an Obama t-shirt. You know things are different, Kweli remarked, when “somebody in the front row of a concert is wearing a presidential candidate on their t-shirt.”