Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"If There's A Black Planet and A Black Moon, Then There has to be A Black Star"

*Sound the Horns, John Q is coming, John Q is Coming, JOHN Q IS COMING*

Enter John Q:

What's up kids I still speaking from the moon, thanks for the support, Ayo I be back soon (updating post that is. I can only explain the delay in post as the hectic period of school that is going on right now (or now of right????!!).Anyway, I will get back to posting regularly as soon as things ease up on my school schedule. So this post is going to happening in the short intermission I have from studies (who talks like that anymore?!)

ANN-EE-WHOO, I was driving in the car the other day(that's right I punished the driving test and have been driving for awhile) with my brother and he told me to play a song on the iPod he liked. Now, I was skeptical because he usually asks for some ol crazy songs to play like Anime songs or other rydoncoluos stuff. But he threw me aback when he asked if he could hear some knowledge of self. From this, for any of my readers left, take a good guess what I is talking about.

If you guessed any song you would hear on the radio expect for the hour of 12'o clock in the afternoon (23/7), then you arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....incorrect.
*Crowd response* OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH! Ooohh!
John Q: Too bad, tell what he has won Johnny.
Johnny: John Q, he has won nothing because the show is about to be canceled.
John Q: Wait, What??!! Ok, I guess will be the first and last time we see you on "Guess That Song"!!! Until Never, I am John Q Signing off.

Alright, now that I stop drinking the Sunny D, Let's get back to the subject matter at hand. The song I was referring to was K.O.S. (Determination) by the Black Star movement. So, I played the song and this gave me an Idea for the subject of my next post:

Black Star is an Hip Hop Group that consists of the two gifted Emcees of Mos Def and Talib Kweli. So there back story goes a little something like this:

Mos Def grew up in Brooklyn and used to rhyme at block parties growing up. Mos decided to form a group with his brother and sister that came to be known as the Urban Thermo Dynamics.The group kinda got a buzz and were able to cut and album known as "Manifest Destiny." The album even got a buzz for the single created by the album title name, but alas the album was not released, until recently, and so things s fizzled out for the group. Mos would not resurface for a short time until a few years later appearing on tracks with De La Soul (Big Brother Beat) and on a couple joint of the Bush Babess Second album, Gravity. From these spots, he would start to gain some buzz and around the same time he released the Universal Magnetic 12" (check previous post for that ish). He blew up the in underground scene with the Universal Magnetic song, but what about the Major label deal you ask? We will get to that but don't forget about the other MC's back story.

Talib Kweli was raised in Brooklyn in a very intellectual devoted environment. His moms was an English professor and his pops was a sociology professor. When he was young, he dug the music of Afrocentrism and the Native Tongues movement of the late 80's to the late 90's (Black Star was also in the movement, so it had to be a dream come true for him, Kids, That means anybody can dream and achieve it if they Try (see what I did there cause he made a song called "I Try" and never mind). Talib went to Cincinnati and made his debut on a album called "Doom", by a group in the area known as Mood. Kweli also met an individual who would become instrumental to the critical acclaim he would go on to gather in the closing of the century. Kweli met a DJ known as Hi-Tek and they formed the group knows as Reflection Eternal. Kweli went back to the NYC and hooked up back with The Mighty Mos (they knew of each for a while and I think talked a few times before). They decided that they should try to tag-team and make good music (by good music the one that you really wouldn't hear much on the radio).

Ok now, they decided to join forces and form the group with the name they believe would be full of pride and positivity for the black community: Black Star. They chose the name Black Star from the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey's philosophy's and the shipping line he made. The both of them tried to release solo joints around the same time, but decided to hold back with the "two heads is better than one" mindset. Now to answer the question of the Major label deal posed earlier, they decided to sign with Rawkus and release their first album. Rawkus were not major label, but retrospectively, they could be seen as burgeoning label of the late 90's for all the talented and underground MC's they had at the time. Mos and Kweli decided to cut an album in the *gasps* Black Star recording studio (coincidence, right?!!) and released it to the public August 25, 1998. Their self-titled album received massive critical acclaim and bolstered the two MC's into the Rap's spotlight because these cats came correct and seemed to have a a different perspective on the rap from other cats. Plus, the production was on point with every track.

So without further ado, the Black Star Album......Review and then Album (see what I did there, I left you in suspense like news on another Black Star album (I still got skills)):

Here we go. I usually hate the "usual" rap intro, but this is kinda of neat intro-duct-ion for the audience. Now time to start the Black Star show.

Alright, Let me be real. At first I really did not dig this song. Then, I started to listen more and found out, This song is pretty good.Actually, it is tight and now it is one of my favorite songs on the album. I love the the positive spin these cats put on "black" and a little help from the late and great, Weldon Irvine, never hurts anyone. Amazingly, Mr. Walt, from the Da Beatminerz, produced this. Who knew?

Here, Here, Here we go!!! This is what I talking about. For all you hip-hop fans out there, tell me you don't like this song and the Hip-Hop badge will be revoked. The song amped up the rap scene with these two dope MC's. Love the sample they have from BDP's song "Remix for P is Free" and the subject matter can still hold up today. The video only helps the song with it's hype atmosphere.Oh Yeah: This is a song that Hi-Tek can thank for getting to work with G-Unit (read sentence slowly and tell me if I should delete it).

Funny how you can kinda remix a track and let it appear after the song that was kinda remixed. If you understood that sentence, then you better shape than me. That aside, Talk about Bringing your A-game. Mos and Kweli sound hungry on this track. Hi-tek handles the production job and this should not surprise you one bit (If it does, then get out of here with that nonsense). Folks remember, that is good thing, and for that, this is good track to listen to.

Oddly enough, another track that has a remix/remake feel to it.Mos handles the solo duties on this track and reworks Slick Rick's classic. Not bad, but not great. Shawn J. Period sort drops the ball here a little.

AW Yeah. This is what I am talking about. This is beautiful song that speaks to the appreciation every black woman should hold for themselves. J Rawls sampling Gil Scott Heron is a good thing. This makes the song expansive, but exquisite . Dan Love, of From Da Bricks, does a brilliant break down of this song's production. The lyrics, oh yeah, Mos and Kweli come correct at approaching th black women and make her realize what true things to hold in her life. I will play this song for my future daughter and future wife when the time comes.

Fresh. This track is a dedicated to B-Boys and B-Girls (why not included in title) to across the world. Ge-ology handles the production duties and does a nice job. But this the part of album that you would go to take a small intermission. I like how Mos and Talib go into that who "B-boy stance" mode on this track.

The song that lead me to do the Black Star post. I LOVE this song. Hi-Tek continues to homers with another solid backing for Kweli. I know it is the same beat the Tribe Used for Check the Rhime, but the way he flipped the track makes see from a new light. Kweli's solo track goes over better than Mos (yeah I was not gambling on that one too). Vinia Mojica just adds to the tracks beauty with a sweet and simple sample from Minnie Riperton. Actually, the sample is a from the track that this track samples (read slowly to fully take in that last sentence). Kweli speaks to black people that Knowledge of Self is like "Life after Death, because without you won't have to worry about your last breath." The subject matter and production on the track fit perfectly and, from the look of the youth of today, they may want to run this track through their ipod for another lesson about who and what they are and, maybe then, they can truly appreciate what they have in their lives.

Fire. This track just rips through with the intensity as Kweli command the track and Mos and Apani B. play like Robin to Kweli's Batman. Shawn J. Period makes up for his lackluster joint from earlier with a great beat that allows for the MC's to just go at the subject at hand: where the real MC's at? Wait, I found out they were underground.

Another small interlude that really sets up for the next track. J. Rawls and *gasp* Talib Kweli co-produced this. This track is great for it fits in the theme of the album and sets up for:

This track is the SH... From the sample of Style Wars (If you do not know what I am talking about, LEAVE THE ROOOOM, you know this is going to be special track. The beat , provided by *SARCASTIC SHOCK* Hi-Tek provides the MC's with a majestic backdrop. Mos and Kweli handle their duties appropriately by discussing the trife life of NYC and Brooklyn life. You really get a feel for the city of New York for this song and feel like you can actually see the picture they paint of New York. If that was not enough, They get some help in painting city pictures from CHI-Town's GOAT MC: Common. Common comes in and fits in perfectly with dope verse about the city and the lost friends to the city life. Overall, A GREAAT Track cause it is the nice display of what true street poets do.

I do not like this. I LOVE THIS SONG. My favorite song on the album. This song works as the centerpiece of the album with brilliant verses from Kweli and, especially, The Mighty Mos. The Production on this track is mellow and beautiful soundscape. Big ups to 88 keys for the soft spoken backdrop. The concept of this song comes from a book Kweli read in High School by Toni Morrison called "The Bluest Eye". Kweli says in the album linear notes that the paragraph "struck me as one of the truest critiques of our society, and I read that in high school, when I was 15 years old. I think it is especially true in the world of hip hop, because we get blinded by these illusions." The line they reinterpret form the book is:

"And fantasy it was, for we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good, but well behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life."

and they rework the lines as the songs chorus:

not strong, only aggressive/ not free, we only licensed/ not compassionate, only polite (now who the nicest?) / not good but well-behaved/ chasin' after death so we could call ourselves brave, still livin' like mental slaves/ hiding like thieves in the night from life/ illusions of oasis making you look twice.

Kweli's verse deals with how morality of young cats and how people's goals are misguided. Kweli wants for people live with God in their hearts and act upon how the creator would approve upon.

Mos steals the show with one of the best verses I've heard from him. He continues to discuss what Kweli touched upon. He discusses the illusions of America and the misconception of black women and men and how there is no middle ground to describe a black person. He also discusses how all the violence is destroying the black community and discuses how "going for self" leaves us in a bad disposition in life. He also touches up on how Black people are still stuck in the slave mentality. To mos, the memory in God's eyes are more important that any legacy somebody wants to put upon him.

This song is my favorite because it really applies to climate of the world today. Cats need to understand that what you see on the "tele" does not need to dictate how you live your life, understand the illusions of the world we live, understand that an education can carry your further in life than the quick money deal you friends tell you about, understand that you got to live the right way to be accepted into the palace of the highest one.

You Know, I like this song. This track sort of plays like a remix of Reflection Eternal's Fortified Live (check previous post). Everyone comes with it on this track and Hi-Tek closes out the album with a bang. I have go to get into some Wordsworth and Jane Doe's stuff. This song is what Rakwus was during their heyday. Too Bad they could not sustain this in the new millennium. Oh well, we have tracks like this, and this album, to reminisce on the good ol days(Sighs as he says this).

Final Thoughts: Black Star is great listen to this day. This album is a great introduction for these two cats who came with it. Mos would follow up Black Star with another gem, Black On Both Sides, while it took Kweli a little longer to follow up on Black Star. Yet, It was worth the wait for with The Reflection Eternal Train of Thought and from there he has had a good career. Mos, on the other, has turned his attention towards acting and has a flourishing career in that, although this has lead for him no being dedicating to rapping and releasing lackluster material in recent years (although I like some songs from his two albums after Black On Both Sides). Hopefully, these cats reunite to make another Black Star album and return order to the hip hop world (or what is left of it).

So without further ado, The Black Star Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star Album:

Mediafire Link



A Little Something to Go along with That:

The Black Star Instrumental LP:

Mediafire Link


apani said...

Great write up! Thieves in the night is my favorite as well. Deep song. Hope your studies are coming along.
Good stuff on the Black Star!


illcuzz said...

yo a comment from apani? just coincidence, or the fly emcee?
anyway. yeah. black star. 10 years ago. hard to imagine. thanks for the instrumentals!

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