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In concert: K'naan, Wale, Tabi Bonney and John Forte at 9:30 club

K'NaanK'Naan didn't share a hometown advantage with his fellow performers Sunday night at 9:30 club but still delivered a pleasing set. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Sarah Godfrey

Sometimes where you're from and where you're at are of equal importance - as was the case at the 9:30 club on Sunday night, where D.C.-area natives Wale and Tabi Bonney felt the full effect of hometown advantage.

The MCs, currently on a nine-city tour, seemed excited to perform for a sold-out DMV audience. Bonney, who previewed material from his upcoming "Fresh," said being on home turf allowed him to use his own DJ and dancers; Wale, who is promoting his major label debut, "Attention Deficit," talked smack about the Redskins; both mentioned that their parents were in attendance. And, it was nice, if not surprising, to find that Wale's "Nike Boots" and "Pretty Girls" and Bonney's "The Pocket" and "Syce It" still thrill a local crowd.

(Life stories from K'naan and John Forte, plus more pictures after the jump.)

Tabi Bonney
Tabi Bonney

The D.C. rap heroes served as goodwill ambassadors of sorts for the other acts on the bill, priming folks to receive Somali/Canadian rapper K'naan - Wale's co-headliner - and Fugees collaborator John Forté, who gave an interesting set, if more for the biographical information he shared than his mix of singing, rhyming and acoustic guitar playing.

In between "Nervous" and "Breaking of A Man," from last year's "StyleFree the EP," Forté, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2001 for a cocaine offense, explained why he's not a member of the hip-hop club fond of bashing the 43rd president.

"I was away for a little while, I was in federal prison . . . in November 2008, former President George W. Bush commuted my sentence, so I'm home seven years early, and I have the opportunity to do what I love - responsibly this time."

He paid tribute to the men he met while incarcerated with the somber track "Running Up That Hill," then promised that the rest of the night would be less serious. "You're like, 'I came out to have a good time, shake my [butt] and John Forté is talking about prison . . . I'm on spring break!' "

K'naan's set was just as political and intense, although he was more adept at making people move and inspiring them to think at the same time. With help from a live band, he mixed hip-hop, Afro-beat, soul, and funk, ripping through tracks from 2009's "Troubadour" and his 2006 debut "The Dusty Foot Philosopher" - including the edutainment focused "ABCs," geo-political master class "T.I.A" (This is Africa), and the brave-front battle tune "Smile."

The centerpiece of his set was an extended version of "Wavin' Flag," where K'naan gave an a capella version of his life story - fleeing civil unrest in Somalia, learning English, falling in love with hip-hop - while the crowd sang the song's chorus, making him feel right at home.





John Forte

By David Malitz  |  April 5, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: John Forte, K'naan, Tabi Bonney, Wale  
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