Catching Up With Talib Kweli and Ozomatli In Advance Of Tonight's Red Bull Soundclash...

Right about now, over at the Palladium Ballroom, the stage is being set for tonight's Red Bull SoundClash, featuring Talib Kweli & The Rhythm Roots AllStars and Ozomatli.

The two groups spawned from vastly different scenes, but share a similar alternative hip-hop jam--and we were able to watch the two groups rehearse yesterday and get the inside scoop on everything from the SoundClash to Dallas music to beefs.

Join us for a quick catch up with both of these acts after the jump.

First, we sat down with Ozomatli's bass player and spokesperson Wil-Dog, who talked at length about how his band's boasting no specific genre has "been [the band's] challenge, but also our savior," and also how they have played with everyone from Wu-Tang Clan to the Offspring to Dave Matthews Band over the years.

And, with culled from everything from hip-hop to Latin music to Miles Davis, sure, that can make things tricky. But the band's been able to persevere, existing as the same group, minus the drummer and horn section, that formed 15 years ago.

There's a running joke on the band, Wil-Dog said, that it's "the longest relationship any of us have ever been in." That doesn't mean fights don't happen, though: "Whenever it gets really bad," he said, "it's just about to get really good. I think that's the kind of metaphor for any relationship. It's like if you can work through it, and be honest, then there's no telling where you can really go."

It also helps that record labels keep out of the creative process for the most part, minus choosing things like release dates, with Ozomatli's last album Fire Away being released on the inauspicious date of April 20. Expect, Wil-Dod said, to hear a lot of Fire Away at tonight's SoundClash.

You can also expect to hear the band's competitive side. Wil-Dog explained how once the band once had a beef with none other than Lenny Kravitz:

This was the first major tour we were on. And we were like a 10-piece band. And we would come in through the audience we'd start at the back. We'd come through audience, go on stage, do the gig, and then go back into the crowd and play. And crowd was really into it. And the first day that he was there to see us, it was like five gigs in, he saw us, and that night, his tour manager told our tour manager we couldn't go back into the crowd at the end. And we were like "What?" and he was like "I'm sorry, it's coming from up top." And the next night, during "Let Love Rule," he goes into the crowd. I'm not gonna say he bit our style, because were not the first ones to do it. So we used to have this thing called rider raiding, where we'd raid his rider... go into his dressing room and take all of his crackers and shit... he had bagels and cream cheese. But, see, that's the thing. We never really had beef with him. We were just kinda a baby band that was like "Man, fuck you guys." But the funny thing is, one time, we were gonna jack his rider, but there was somebody already in there jacking his shit. It was some crazy fan. He was trying to steal, and the bass player went off on him like, "He stole my sunglasses!" And we were like, "What the fuck!"
This moment of honesty caused Wil-Dog to tell yet another hilarious story that goes into how competitive they can actually be.
I gotta be even more honest: Remember when they made passes without the shiny things? So I went and made fake backstage passes, and I sold them. I would go to Kinko's, make it, laminate it, the whole shit. And they would ask me, like, "You can't do this!" and I was like "What? I'm playing tonight, I'm part of the crew!" at Kinko's. So I made 'em, and I must have made like $2,000. All of sudden people were like getting hints and security was like, "Where are these coming from?" and that's when I had to stop. I remember in Chicago, [the security guard] was like, "Wait a minute, this is a fake one," and I was like standing there after I sold it and I was, like, "Oh.. and I walked out. Freaking sweet though, right?" Being in a big band, too, people don't really recognize you--I change this, go out, and no one would notice. We did that at Dave Matthews, too, 'cause we'd be the first of three bands. It'd be us, Ben Harper, then him, so then I'd get two 19th row seats every night, so I'd play at 7:30 play half an hour and then go into the front of the Colosseum and usually like a giant stadium, and sell 'em. To some Abercrombie and Fitch motherfuckers. "Here you go!"
Although Ozomatli can be very competitive and have had pretty rock star moments in their past, they still share a special kinship with Talib Kweli.

Two years ago, Ozomatli and Talib Kweli toured together in China, and that tour sparked a friendship that ultimately sparked this SoundClash.

In contrast to our sit down with Ozomatli, Talib Kweli was a lot more introverted and tired, with baggy eyes fighting to keep his eyes open. That's not surprising, considering Kweli had just finished a three-week tour in Europe with DJ Chaps and just arrived in Dallas a little jet-lagged. He actually showed up to rehearsal a few hours late to catch up on some sleep, and it makes you wonder if he could have even been standing up if he had not taken the extra nap.

Nevertheless, Talib was taking this SoundClash very seriously, he said, and he wanted to win. That's probably why he employed De La Soul's phenomenal backing band, The Rhythm Roots AllStars, to help him. When asked about the chances of beating the Ozomatli, Talib exclaimed, "Oh yeah, without a doubt!"

His confidence is valid, with the band getting down nearly all the Ozomatli songs necessary for the event, although Talib admits, "They got our stuff down pretty well too."

There's also a bit of a home-field advantage for Kweli at this show: Even though he hails from Brooklyn, he's worked extensively with multiple Dallas artists.

Some may remember Erykah Badu's Soulquarians collective that included Talib Kweli. During that tenure, he came to Dallas multiple times, collaborating with Badu on everything from albums to The Chappelle Show. Kweli commented on how "Every time I come to Dallas, it seems bigger."

But the local tie-ins don't end there. Dallas native Norah Jones was featured on Kweli's last album Eardrum, which isn't surprising considering Jones' extensive work in the alternative hip-hop community.

The biggest tie-in that seals the deal? Talib's work with Waco native Symbolyc One, the producer of Kanye West's "Power." Talib commented on how S-1 is "going to help me a lot on my next album."

A Dallas native being the executive producer of one of the most legendary rappers of the 21st Century? That's really going to help his chances tonight.

Nevertheless, alternative hip-hop kings Talib Kweli and The Rhythm Roots AllStars will have the run for their money with the award-winning and ever-eclectic Ozomatli.

Tonight's show sure will be a fiesta.

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Sartaj Chowdhury
Contact: Sartaj Chowdhury

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