On August 26th, 1998, Mos Def and Talib Kweli came together as Black Star and released one of the most significant albums in hip-hop’s history.
Six years later, as a seventh-grader hearing the album for the first time on a bootleg CD played through my bedroom DVD player, it changed my life.
Prior to hearing Mos and Kweli, my rap tastes consisted of whatever I heard on the radio or saw on BET or MuchMusic: basically, G-Unit, Ludacris, Nelly, Ja Rule, and Lil Jon. (Here’s a fun activity: look at the Billboard charts from 2001-03 for a reminder of the musical climate.) Suddenly, I was opened to a world of groovy basslines, gritty drums, and quick-witted lyrical mastery. Not only that, but there was substance. I never turned back.
I may have caught on late, but I share a similar story with many emcees and producers in hip-hop today. Ask just about anyone, and they’ll list Black Star amongst their favourites.
“That was the album that changed all of my lyrical content,” says Junia-T.
“When you’re a young artist, and you’re just rapping, following what you hear, you don’t really understand the reality of the environments these people are describing, you know what I mean? Until you hear an album like Black Star, it really made me realize that yeah, I can rap about my regular life and still have something to say.”
“The mid-nineties was when I got into deejaying, and this was kind of at the same time that Rawkus was really big,” Freddie Joachim says. “This was when Mos Def and Kweli, Common, and The Roots were really blowing up. That’s the type of music that I gravitated towards.”
“I heard that in a time when I had already kinda been on Nas, and Common, and Jay – all the staples – but that came at a point where I was kind of searching for something new, because I had played those albums to death,” says Omen.
“It was just so refreshing to hear; it was just unique; Mos had his own style, Talib had his own style, and I was at a time in my life where I was searching for truth, and tryin to figure out the world, and I felt like they had the answers – even if they didn’t, it felt like that.”
Allow us to take a walk down memory lane and revisit the album, track-by-track. Read it all after the jump.
I was going through a thread in a forum and discovered full sample packages for Late Registration & College Dropout. I instantly put the C.D. on and have been vibin out and reminiscing like whoa. This album is Certified Classic and holds a definite mark in the history of hip-hop. I decided to drop this explicit version for ya’ll since you can’t find it on the actual album itself. I’ve always wonder why that happens on albums sometimes, one track is edited but the entire album isn’t. Meh. Enjoy.
Stream then click and see the full post to download.
This track and I go way back to the very beginning of the digital music revolution, which corresponds rather conveniently for historians, at the beginning of this decade. Maybe because 2010 is about to wrap or maybe because it’s just that good, today I found myself versing “The Wake Up Show Anthem ’94”, one of the first mp3s I downloaded back in 2000.
I’ve had this stuck in my head since I posted “Maria” from KVBeats this past week, which has a chorus reminiscent of this tune.
The Chi-lites were a chicago based group from Chi city that scored gold with this doo-wop early R&B tune in the early 70s.
And then, of course, there’s the 1990 MC Hammer cover. Golden.
For those of you on a J. Cole vibe after last night’s show, here’s a Missy Elliot /Aaliyah sample from his newest mixtape Friday Night Lights. “Best Friend” (also of the same name on Cole’s tape) is from Elliot’s landmark record Supa Dupa Fly, produced for the most by by Timothy Mosley, better known to most as Timbaland.
Most people see Aaliyah’s career as blowing up post-Elliot’s arrival on the scene, but Aaliyah’s debut record One in a Million actually came a year before Elliot’s, in 1996.