Kweli and Randolph's Family Band make up PB double bill

by Lindsay Barnes | 3/31/05 5:00am

It isn't often that the opportunity comes along to see two of music's rising stars on one stage at the same show. It's even rarer that those two artists should be climbing the ranks in two different genres.

But that's exactly what will happen this Saturday when virtuoso MC Talib Kweli and jam band funk masters Robert Randolph and the Family Band converge on Dartmouth and turn Leede Arena into the hottest music club in New England for one night only.

Kweli first burst onto the hip-hop scene in the late '90s when he was part of Black Star with fellow rap luminary Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek. Arriving on the scene at a time when the genre was dominated by gangsta glory stories and slick, calculated pop-rap, Black Star brought hip-hop back to its politically conscious roots, taking its name from the literature of the late African colonialism advocate Marcus Garvey.

The group's one and only album, an eponymous release from 1998, garnered wild acclaim from critics and elevated Kweli to a whole new status in the hip hop community.

In 2000, Kweli further established his individual musical identity with "Reflection Eternal" a collaboration with Hi-Tek. Spanning 21 tracks and over 70 minutes, it was the album that affirmed his status as hip-hop's best kept secret. Two years later Kweli emerged as a force in his own right with his first proper solo album "Quality." Featuring appearances from rap royalty like the Roots' Black Thought and former crony Mos Def, critics lauded Kweli once again, roundly hailing "Quality" hailed as one of the best rap albums of 2002. He even received praise in rhyme from Jay-Z in the "Black Album" track "Moment of Clarity."

His sophomore solo effort "The Beautiful Struggle" came out in September 2004.

While Kweli was enjoying commendations from the man they call "Jigga," Robert Randolph and the Family Band recently basked in the glow of the man Brits once called "God" when Eric Clapton brought the group along as the opening act on his most recent American tour.

Backed by his cousins Danyell Morgan on bass and Marcus Randolph on drums and friend John Ginty on Hammond B-3 organ, Randolph has electrified the jam band scene with his raucous brand of pedal steel guitar. While largely known as a staple of country music, Randolph learned to play the instrument as a child in his Pentecostal church in New Jersey in the "Sacred Steel" tradition.

Starting out playing various clubs in New York, the group quickly gained popularity with their firecracker energy and good-natured vibe. In 2000, when the group captured that live sound on disc by releasing their "Live at the Wetlands" album, the ensemble set the rest of the jam band scene ablaze and has led to Randolph himself playing with the likes of Chrissie Hynde, Billy Preston, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Sawyer Brown. He even won the admiration of "Slowhand" himeslf and won a regular spot in Clapton's summer shows, dueting with the guitar hero on the Cream classic "Sunshine of Your Love" during his nightly encores.

In 2003, the group released their first studio album "Unclassified" and found themselves at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn. alongside icons like the Allman Brothers Band, Sonic Youth, the Dead and the one and only hardest working man in show business, James Brown.

Showtime is set for 8 p.m. and tickets are still available at the Collis Info Desk and through Ticketmaster. Admission costs $15 for students and $25 for the general public.