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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Black Star Shines

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Album cover art

When Talib Kweli and Mos Def burst on the scene with Talib Kweli and Mos Def present: Black Star (Rawkus Records, 1998), the first real album featuring either emcee, they inextri- cably linked themselves together and formed the core of a reborn Afrocen- tric hip-hop movement with a political conscience. Following in the footsteps of The Native Tongues Posse (Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and others) and the United Zulu Nation group formed by Afrika Baambataa, Black Star took back hip-hop from the mate- rialist gangster rappers that had begun to dominate the game. Instead they preached a message of justice, peace, power and unity, and paid homage to the musical traditions of African- Americans. More importantly, the album sent a message of non-violence to a community that had just seen the murders of two of it’s largest figures in Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Following the explosive collabora- tion, the two Brooklyn-born rappers set off on separate trajectories that led them on paths to solo fame and notori- ety but eventually led back to the stage at the House of Blues for a joint show that exhibited not only why the world originally fell in love with the duo, but also how they have grown and defined themselves as individuals since Black Star was formed. Talib took the stage first, his flat brim covering his eyes as his slight frame glided onto the stage, moving fluidly through the set and wasting no time before letting loose a machine- gun-paced freestyle movement ac- companied by razor-sharp lyrics that played true to Talib’s rep as being one of the greatest technical rappers to ever puncture an ear drum. He went on to play material from his soon-to- be-released and anxiously anticipated new album Gutter Rainbows (set to be released in November), as well as some new material from Reflection Eternal (his collaboration with DJ Hi-Tek) off of their recently released second album Revolutions Per Minute. Talib finished off an already amped-up crowd with classics like “Get By”, “Hot Thing”, and “Move Something” to close the set. After a short intermission, Mos Def came spinning and shuffling from the wings in a 70’s cut brown suit and wool knit cap that bore a striking resem- blance to similar outfits trademarked by Al Jarreau. The classic wide and almost child-like signature Mos Def smile plastered across his face, the rap- per/actor/singer sauntered over to the drum kit set up stage left and began a drum solo backed by beats from the crew of DJs behind him. The rest of his set stood out in stark contrast to the straight hip-hop roots style of Talib be- fore him, and instead took on more of a Sun Ra/mystical jazz feel to it, with the emcee seemingly on his own planet. Rather than just go straight from song to song, Mos would aimlessly wander, shuffle, or groove around the space, throwing out a capella verses, songs, and what could almost be called short poems, whenever he was inspired to do so. There were a few classics mixed in, but it was really a performance of Mos himself and not his music. It was as if while Talib’s performance came from the streets, Mos’ set was born of George Clinton’s mothership. Finally, at the end of Mos’ set, what we had all come to see finally came to fruition as Talib came back on stage and the two launched into a Black Star revue covering all of their great- est hits that set the room on rhythmic fire. Seeing these two emcees share the stage and perform the songs that launched their careers, and after es- pecially after seeing them perform individually, was truly revelatory and proved how much both have grown up over that time while reminding us of where they came from. The show, which also happened to be on the night of Talib’s birthday, ended with Mos leading the crowd in a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday, following which Talib left the stage. Mos hung out for a while, con- tinuing to do his thing with no par- ticular rhyme or reason other than just his creativity on display. The crowd exited onto Landsdowne with a sense of really having seen something rare and almost impossible to capture in words or memory, hearts reset to when we all fell in love with hip-hop in the first place. However, If you can’t catch the two legendary emcees together on their current tour, fear not: rumors of a second Black Star album are spreading like wildfire.

About the Contributor
Ben Whelan served for the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2009; 2009-2010. News Editor: Spring 2008; Fall 2008 Sports Editor: 2006-2007