on February 17, 2004
The name Blackstar brings to mind notions of afrocentric pride. These notions are brought to fruition by messengers Mos Def & Talib Kweli. Mos Def was introduced on tracks by De La Soul and Da Bush Babees which placed him in line to carry on as part of the next generation in the Native Tongues movement. He joined up a long with Talib Kweli on Rawkus Records in the late 90's which was the spot for underground hip hop. Kweli although from Brooklyn is part of the Cincinnati based Wanna Battle Crew along with Rawkus mate Dj Hi-Tek and groups like Mood & Lone Catalysts. Together they come to form "Blackstar" bringing intelligent rhymes without going too far over your head, classic battle rap dexterity and uplifting messages. Backed by soulful production provided by Dj Hi-Tek, Shawn J. Period, Da Beatminerz and more. It'll be hard to find a more solid production squad on a single album backed with such equally pleasing emcees. Mos Def brings heat as arguably the stronger of the two with great lyrics, and his slightly West Indian tinged vocal style that dabbles in a sing-song ragga vibe at times. Talib also has a unique delivery & flow accompanied by his concrete lyrical prowess. These guys aren't your average hip hop clones. You can tell they have read a lot from their lyrics constantly dropping knowledge (their name was taken from a shipping company designed to repatriate blacks from America back to Africa), no wonder they own a bookstore. This is one of the finest releases in rap from anywhere in the later half of the 90's. So now I will show you what all the fuss is about....
Astronomy (8th Light) ~ From this opening song you get a good idea of the capable force on this album. Mos & Kweli trade off verses using "black" as a constant them throughout. The production is done by Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz with koldass cuts by Evil Dee on the plates. It is a funked out bass driven number. Late night koolin' out vibe with awesome word play.
Re: Definition ~ Lyrically this is in my opinion the strongest song on the album. Kweli opens up in a solid battle stance with flares of intelligent lines woven in. Mos' verse right after outshines him, the lyrics are fire, as well as his dope chorus. The beat is done by Dj Hi-Tek and has a real thumping bassline, hard rapid drums, light string arrangement and nice echo effect for a very dense sound. Sample of Mos Def's first verse:
"/What, lyrically handsome, call collect the king's ransom/
/Jams I write soon become the ghetto anthem/
/Way out like Bruce Wayne's Mansion, move like a phantom/
/You'll talk about me to your grandsons/"
Brown Skin Lady ~ One of the best love themed hip hop songs ever put together. Blackstar both drop clever heartfelt lyrics about the type of ladies they love a real positive approach to women that is both amusing and self depreciating. Mos is on the hook once again with some kool adlibbing at the end. J.Rawls of Lone Catalysts handles the beat with a solid drum and bass funky backing beat combined with nice acoustic guitar and vibraphone as well as the occasional kettle sound tossed in.
Respiration ft/ Common ~ The track opens up with a couple of dudes talking about cars. Then the beat comes in with a chick repeating something in what sounds like Spanish. Mos Def, Talib Kweli & Common on the same song spitting, doesn't get more ill than that. They all bust fu<king tight with verses that are abstract street observation style verbals. The hook stays in ones head for awhile I guarantee. Dj Hi-Tek drops a real dope complex production with choppy percussion, nice bass, Latin string plucks, and vibraphonish taps.
Thieves In the Night ~ Perhaps the most intelligent song on the album. Kweli & Mos Def drop verses exposing the evils of today and the lies we all live in. The best hook on the album too. The production by 88 Keys is full of jazzy percussion and a beautiful key loop with interesting change ups.
One of the definitive rap releases of in recent memory. An album solidifying Rawkus as the primo underground label of the time period. Two emcees with great chemistry and original sound. They come together with a fantastic panel of producers and stand out guests. If you like intelligent and accessible lyrics with finely crafted beats, check this out. Hip Hop essential listening 4 stars! peace, love & soul...
on March 1, 2005
In today's glamorous and ultimately skin-deep hip hop scene, it is decidedly rare to find rappers with the lyrical dexterity, seamless flow, and poetic charm of Mos Def and Talib Kweli. And while these underground powerhouses garner more than enough acclaim on their own, it is when they record in tandem, under the moniker of "Black Star," that fans of the genre take notice and understand that the attention is well-deserved.
Upon first listen, anyone who is familiar with the style of Mos Def and Talib Kweli will not be surprised by the sound of their collaborative efforts. DJ Hi-Tek provides the rhythmic backbone for most of their tracks, and while it is an acquired taste to someone who is used to mainstream rap, the beats he mixes are so thoroughly unique and high quality that one can only wonder why he is still relegated to a relative no-name position as a back-up DJ for underground artists. His skills, combined with the lyricism of two of the best emcees on the planet, makes for a singularly unique mélange of socially-conscious and truly poetic raps with smooth, perfectly-rendered beats.
Though fans of Mos Def and Talib Kweli will surely love all or nearly all of the album, there are a few tracks that stand out as being so utterly perfect that one may ask themselves why these artists are still under the radar for the majority of hip-hop fans. "Brown Skin Lady," a pseudo-ballad with an eccentric 70's-style funk beat, is a song that anyone with a respect for quality production values can appreciate, regardless of how the subject matter applies to them. Similarly, the new-age ska/reggae beats and lyrics in "RE: Definition" are a testament to the abilities of Mos Def, who changes his sound several times throughout the album, ranging from a light-hearted tone in his solo remake of Slick Rick's "Children's Story," to the gritty and industrial raps of "Thieves in the Night." And though these all sound absolutely incredible, there is no doubt in this fan's mind as to what the best track on the album is.
"Respiration," a dark yet surprisingly flowing track featuring Common, embodies the heart and soul of true East Coast rap (both Kweli and Def were born and raised in Brooklyn, while Common is a Chicago native). A spanish-themed guitar riff denotes the beginning of the song, and Mos Def is the first to spit, laying out a haunting and wholly original round of raps that can only be described as genius in musical form. Talib Kweli steps up next, and though one can tell that he is less sure of his ability as an emcee than his partner, he is still fully capable of destroying the mic. One listen to his silky smooth flow will dispel any notions that he lacks skill as a rapper. The final stanza of the song comes courtesy of Common, who delivers a low-key but stinging rap that focuses on the death of his friend, and subtly admonishes listeners to avoid the trap of the "gangsta" lifestyle.
Though there are several more tracks on the album that deserve applause, it would be quite a bit easier to simply wrap up the review here with a simple conclusion. For any and all fans of true hip-hop, the lyrical underground rap that literally gives the listener chills, "Black Star" is a must-have album. Yes, it's nearly seven years old, and the newer albums from it's front men are lacking, but the simple truth of the matter is that truly great music never goes out of style.
FINAL SCORE: [9.5 / 10]
Top 3 Tracks: "Respiration" - "Brown Skin Lady" - "Thieves in the Night"
on December 20, 2004
When I first bought this album, at first I thought it wasn't going to be as good as I thought it would be. But as soon as I pressed play, I was amazed with the production, the lyrical wisdom and wordplay, and the kind of atmosphere it creates. Here's a rundown on the tracks:
1. Intro- nice scratch by Hi-Tek and the lounge sample seems to fall in perfectly.
2. Astronomy(8th Light)- Has some of the nicest wordplay I heard in a minute. "Black" as a whole is the constant theme.
3. Definition- Ahh, yess...the infamous track that sampled BDP (got praise from the Source in their "151 greatest Hip-Hop songs of the past couple of years")
4. RE:Definition- Brooklyn banger...nuff said.
5. Children's Story- Mos Def solo track. Basiclly the same as the original by Slick Rick.
6. Brown Skin Lady- Talks about shorties they seen around the way. The hidden message in this track is that black women are beautiful even with out all of the make up and plastic surgery. This song reminds me of Bonita Applebaum by ATCQ.
7. B Boys Will B Boys- Strictly for the B-Boys from the days of shell-toe addidas, fat gold chains, sweatsuits, and Kangol hats. I mean, this is a true throwback to the days of Cold Crush, Rocksteady, Wild Style, and the Zulu Nation.
8. K.O.S.(Determination)feat. Vinia Mojica- Kweli's solo track. One of the deepest tracks on the album. Message on this track is the importance of Knowledge of Self and how it can help you throughout your lifetime. Vinia Mojica adds richness to the hook.
9. Hater Players- Gives a shoutout to the underground and to underground MC's that deserve what their skills are worth. Cause they should truly be livin it up rather than these big time cats.
10. Yo, Yeah- The only interlude on the C.D. As simple and as short as it is, it makes sense so perfectly. This track got me into watching Def Poetry Jam.
11. Respiration feat. Common- Explains about the lows of city life. Each verse gets real deep and the Wild Style intro ties into the theme of the track.
12. Thieves in the Night- The deepest track on the whole album. The topic's about head strong cats who supposedly aren't afraid of death.
13. Twice Inna Lifetime feat. Punchline, Wordsworth, Jane Doe- The Fortified Live remix comes and blows a 44 inch hole in your dome. Each verse comes like they're in competition with each other and straight up like a freestyle. Classic ish...
All in all this is the kind of album that will re-establish your hopes in Hip-Hop and expand your consiousness at the same time. One of those albums that sounds better in the dark or with the lights dimmed low or on a night drive thru the city. Whatever you do, get this '98 classic, today...
on July 23, 2003
Mos Def and Talib Kweli, two of the most incredible MC's collaborate on one of the most amazing hip-hop albums i have ever heard. It is an absoulte must have for any hip-hop fans, and a sweet release from the superficial and misogynist rap that is endowed with endless exposure today. There aren't enough words that can be utilized to describe the expansive talent of these two artists, and it is a shame that their music is bumped from airspace for the pop-rap that is existental throughout generic pop-culture. The first track i ever heard was "respiration," and i knew i had to get this LP. Although i feel that Eternal Reflection's "Train of Thought" is more sound overall, this album is absolutely timeless and must be a part of every hip-hop collection. I was not disapointed and neither will you!
on January 10, 2006
I would argue that "Black Star" is much better than any of Mos Def's or Talib Kweli's solo albums (not to say that they aren;t bad - they both have classic albums), mostly because of how accessible and fun it is. The beats here are much much better, and both MCs are easier to hear and like on this album. I usually don't like Mos Def, but I actually like him a lot on "Black Star". The lyrics, as usual, are well-worth your time to listen to as they're well-written and discuss the real problems with the world today (mostly dealing with black culture, though). Basically every song here is instantly catchy and likable, which I couldn't say for most of either of their solo albums. I have no idea who did the production, but it's VERY good and relatively unique (I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's different and a welcomed change from most rap albums today). Basically, if you like rap, Mos Def or Talib Kweli, it's virtually impossible not to love "Black Star". Highly recommended!
the entire album!
on March 20, 2006
In 1999, Black Star released their only album (so far) together, entitled Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star. These two talented emcees, brought along a slew of producers to design beats for their classic album. Among those names are DJ Hi-Tek (whom Kweli worked with later in Reflection Eternal), and up-and-coming 88 Keys. With this album, Talib Kweli and Mos Def proved that they are AMAZING.
Track List & Rating
1. Intro (NOT RATED)
2. Astronomy (8th Light) f/ Weldon Irvine (5 Stars)
3. Definition (5 Stars)
4. Re:Definition (5 Stars)
5. Children's Story (5 Stars)
6. Brown Skin Lady (5 Stars)
7. B Boys Will B Boys (3 1/2 Stars)
8. K.O.S. (Determination) f/ Vinia Mojica (5 Stars)
9. Hater Players f/ Apani-B-Fly-Emcee (5 Stars)
10. Yo Yeah (NOT RATED)
11. Respiration f/ Common (5 Stars)
12. Thieves In The Night (5 Stars)
13. Twice Inna Lifetime f/ Jane Doe, Punchline, Wordsworth (5 Stars)
With their unmatched lyricism, and socially conscious songs, along with their unique metaphors, flow, delivery, similes, and rhythmic patterns, these guys are no doubt about it LEGENDS! Another pretty unique feature is that these guys dont use too much profanity. Its occasional, but you dont hear the F word on every track, in fact, there are some songs where they dont even curse! So this is good for the whole family, in my opinion, so ignore the Parental Advisory Sticker. Then again, it might not be so good for kids, since they may not understand. These guys are Legends, no doubt, but some people might not agree, but i assure you i can find a few who will agree that these two emcees are living legends in hip hop, unfortunately, they arent recognized and are on the semi-underground level. However, they dont write music for teeny-boppers, they write it for us, the true Hip Hop fans
on May 1, 2004
Black Star, compromised of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, is a killer combo of rap skills. The soulful rhymes of Kweli mixed with the deep, knowledgeable rhymes of Mos make for the best Cd of the previous 5 years. Personally, Mos and Kweli remind me of two other rappers who worked together- Phife Dawg and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. They go back and forth with each other seamlessly, as if it is one artist on the track. In a day of gun talk, death threats, and constant bragging in the rap game, Blackstar is a refreshing reminder of what Hip Hop really is supposed to be.
Top Three songs:
Definition: an uptempo beat and fast lyrics make for a song that will definitley make you bob your head.
Respiration- No words really give this song justice. Common's guest appearance comes at just the right time. An abstract beat combined with witty lyrics from all three artists makes for the best song on the CD. Takes a few listens to understand the full greatness of this song.
Thieves in the Night: Very laid back, with a quiet beat from Blackstar. The actual subject matter from Kweli and Mos is what brings the song together. A very deep song, one that also takes a few listens to really understand.
Overall a Hip Hop masterpiece, one that should not be passed up by any true music fan of any genre.
on May 30, 2003
While today's charts are filled with stupid, pointless rap songs such as "Like a Pimp" by David Banner and "Never Scared" By BoneCrusher, with stupid beats and half baked, see-through lyrics, this album really stands out as a classic hip hop album. While Talib Kweli is on the way to be a breakout star and basically save hip hop, Mos Def had just released his classic album "Black on Both Sides". Two of the best voices in rap today come together for an album and do Black Star. While the beats arent as complex as Quality on this disc, and the lyrics arent as intricate as on black on both sides, this album is still better than anything out there today. If anyone wants to know what real hip hop should be, here it is. Every song has a great beat, and has something fresh and original to bring to the table. Most people have forgotten about this album, and its a shame, because just about anything with Kweli and Mos Def on it has got to be good. Its just 2 great artists that cant fail.
on July 12, 2004
I don't care what Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Outkast, Eminem, Naz, Kanye West or anyone coast to coast says, Black Star's album is the best hip-hop album of the new millenium. There is not one whack lyric on the entire album. These brothers laid it down like no others in the past. They combine intelligent lyrics with a battle rap style that few MC's can match. Their versatility is boundless. It's a shame that this will be their only album together. I would love to have heard their underground hits. I rank this album as one of the baddest hip-hop albums ever.
on January 25, 2008
Using the term "authentic" can be dangerous in describing music, but for many, Mos Def and Talib Kweli embody the term.
Prophetic Hip Hop was born in Brooklyn, NY. In this seminal album, Def and Kweli push hip hop into a new domain: the very real expression of urban space found in Wu Tang Clan, and the consciousness of Public Enemy, combined with a skill for narration and ease with poetry produce an album that marks a paradigm shift in hip hop.
Both Def and Kweli are artists in the truest sense of the word. They look not to integrate into the corporate establishment for affirmation, but to feed the soul.