Review Summary: [i]One two three
Mos Def and Talib Kweli
We came to rock it on to the tip-top
Best alliance in hip-hop[/i]Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
“We feel that we have a responsibility to, shine a light, into the darkness.”
There is no introduction more fitting than this to Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s collaborative effort Black Star. With the rap world suffering from the deaths of its two biggest stars, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, the Brooklyn MCs took time off from solo efforts to record one of the greatest hip-hop albums of the 1990’s. Complete with heartfelt lyrics, eclectic beats, and rhyming prowess, they paint their masterpiece for the ears and mind alike.
It is important to note that Mos Def and Talib were up and coming during this release, which makes the magnitude of the release so much greater. Neither had released a full-length album. They immediately proved to be well read and thought, referencing and quoting the likes of Morrison and Rostand, while addressing issues such as violence in hip-hop and the unnecessary necessity of being beautiful in the eyes of the media. The duo also expressed the importance of being an MC; it isn’t about the money, it’s about being influential and helping people through the toughest of times as role models. They manage to frequently attack mainstream hip-hop without coming across nasty (well, in every song except one), in fact, they do so calm and collectedly.
“Yo, I'm sure that everbody out listenin agree
That everything you see ain't really how it be
A lot of jokers out runnin in place, chasin the style
Be a lot goin on beneath the empty smile
Most cats in my area be lovin the hysteria
Synthesized surface conceals the interior
America, land of opportunity, mirages and camoflauges
More than usually -- speakin loudly, sayin nothin
You confusin me, you losin me”
-Mos Def, Thieves in the Night
Rapping is the key component of hip-hop, and is synonymous with poetry. Superb poetry is guaranteed to contain some sort of message at the very least. This is superb rapping. In some songs here the message is better hidden than in others, but producer Hi-Tek does a masterful job of making these MCs’ voices crisp and clear without making the record sound one bit glossy. I never had trouble comprehending the words out of the rappers mouths. The beats are relaxing at best, but that’s all they have to be to make this record highly enjoyable. And heck, tracks like Children’s Story
are far more exciting than anything I’ve heard on the radio recently anyways. Reminiscing the glory days of hip-hop through a bedtime story, this song stands for the purpose of the entire album; to bring rap back to life.
The chemistry between Talib and Mos Def is without a doubt the most exceptional I have heard between two rappers. Whether they are passing lead MC back and forth or harmonizing mid-song, they work wonders. It never feels monotonous due to their differing vocal styles. Their childhood friendship pays off here, and it’s wonderful that neither has become too cocky about or wrapped up in his solo career.
It is really hard for me to find any weak spots on this album, because it’s a nearly flawless recording. I guess if one had to get picky they could argue that there are only eleven full tracks, but this makes it easier to listen through as well as to pay attention to individual tracks. Some may also find the track B Boys Will B Boys
too crazy and old-school to be taken as seriously as the rest of the album.
I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I did. I’m a huge fan of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, but this is truly the best of both MCs. It may lack the raw emotion of classics such as Illmatic
or the later The Marshall Mathers LP
, but Black Star
deservingly belongs amongst the greatest rap albums of all time. As influential as it is enjoyable, I recommend that everyone refrain from being hater players and go out and buy this now, as well as look into underground rap in general. To conclude this review, here’s another little snippet from Black Star, kicking some mainstream ***.
“I'm sick of the hater-players, bring on the regulators
With the flavors like a farm team ******* with the majors
Like a river how I run through it, I do it so cold
Freezin up your bodily fluids, your style is old
You runnin your mouth, but don't really know what you be talkin about
You should retire, get that complimentary watch, be out!
Yo, with the quickness, so swift you miss this lyrical fitness
Now get this, these emcees wanna test me like litmus, bear witness
I'm like shot clocks, interstate cops, and blood clots
My point is, your flow can stop!
By all means, you need more practice, take that *** home
Everybody lookin at you, fish tank syndrome!”
-Talib Kweli, Hater Players
Top-notch rhyming and lyricism
Refreshing and relaxing beats
All killer, no filler (well, two filler tracks, but a much needed break from rap albums with 20 tracks, half of which are ****)
You can’t get low to this one, but does anyone really care?
Everything except Yo Yeah
and B Boys Will B Boys
, but those are by no means poor