February 18, 2016

Black Star in Spin Magazine (11/98) + Live with Common (Video)

"People think you just have something on your mind and you just say it over a beat," says Mos Def of the current proliferation of wack MCs. The 24-year old is nestled inside the back offices of Brooklyn's Nkiru Books, sitting across from Talib Kweli, 22, and his equally frustrated Black Star cohort and one of the store's owners. "Rapid-fire staccato delivery," Kweli says, flipping off a typical rap cliche. "It's just n!ggas talking." "It doesn't mean anything," echoes Mos Def. "Me and Mos always say that if Charlie Parker and Miles Davis could rhyme..." "What would Tipper Gore say then?" Black Star's self-titled debut album is an Afrocentric bookstore in its own right, referencing everything from John Coltrane's "Naima" to slave ships to bleak premillennial times. But thankfully, the gravity in their rhymes never slows down their animated styles or their brooding jazz and reggae walking beats. It's a sound that recalls the best of early-'90s hip-hop, upping the ante on EPMD's mellow grooves and A Tribe Called Quest's playful gift of gab." Watch a live throwback with Common, cont'd...

"While the duo's shows have earned them a reputation as NY's slammingest hip-hop act, the two do more than just wow the kids. Mos Def has acted on NYPD Blue and the short-lived Brooklyn South, although he's more often recognized for the Visa ad he did with Deion Sanders. Kweli, for his part, wants to open a theater and a school. "The black community has plenty of hair and nail salons," he says. There's also plenty of retro-leaning hip-hop, which is why Mos Def is quick to point out that Black Star are hardly revivalists. "I'm not gonna diss my history by trying to re-create it," he says. But I respect it and apply it to what's going on today. That's what Black Star is about: bridging yesterday and today without compromising either." - Spin, November 1998.