“Consciousness [kon-shuh s-nis]:conscious; etc.”
A seemingly lost element in today’s rap game, consciousness appears to be few and far between. That is not to diminish or take shine away from those emcees who are still releasing a conscious, self-aware message on records. Peace to those who are, and who push for this type of sound in 2015.
Before Mos Def‘s Black On Both Sides and Talib Kweli‘s Train of Thought (Reflection Eternal) came Black Star. It’s tough to find a place to begin as far as explaining this albums potency and lasting relevance. Let’s start with the duo’s title, Black Star. For those unaware, this was inspired by Marcus Garvey‘s birth of The Black Star Line. In the midst of Garvey’s growing UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) he originated this as a means of transportation. To make a long story short, a series of unpleasant events took place involving informants, corrupted management, misconstrued mail fraud charges and the FBI that led to Garvey’s arrest. He would than spend five years behind bars, followed by him being deported back to Jamaica by way of Kingston, in which he still kept things alive and made moves for change.
Now with a little background on Black Star’s reference for the group’s title, you should have a better understanding of why this album is so major, among many other reasons. Let’s get into the LP.
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star was released in ’98, prior to both of the their official debuts. In just over 50 minutes, they covered some serious ground in terms of content. There is no need to break down each record, as most of you reading this either love it, own it, or heard it a chunky amount of times. They covered every sound possible, with joints still relevant today for B-Boys, deep thinkers, graffiti writers, narration fiends, mothers, grandfathers and aunts. And most importantly the youth. This is an album you can play to your inner-city middle schools and use as a tool for education.
With production from Da Beatminerz, J. Rawls, Hi-Tek, 88 Keys and Ge-Ology all bases are covered. Another notable factor is today’s overall production versus this raw mid/late 90’s sound. There’s really no argument that most of us real hip-hop junkies probably miss albums to this level of rawness as far as the sounds are concerned. Also, the amount of features is far from oversaturated, which you often find in today’s scene. It’s generally a hit or miss, but this was beyond a win.
Black Star, as mentioned earlier, is an extremely powerful title for Mos and Talib. Did they stop at the title? No. Many records, like “Astronomy (8th Light)”, “Thieves In The Night” and “K.O.S. (Determination)” took unaware listeners to school, beautifully embracing and shedding a positive light on the culture. Also, the pictures painted of inner-city life are overwhelmingly present when you listen to these records, which is still very much relevant for all of us in and out of the city currently in 2015. They didn’t stop in 1998 either. Albums, shows, features and years later Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli are still shedding this light and keeping a positive, uplifting message. Longevity best describes it.
This article was not meant to be another mediocre, time-passing album review of an LP we all know. That would be exhausting. It was written and conducted with intentions of highlighting one, of many, classic albums that uphold a positive message. Hopefully this will inspire two things: a new-jack is exposed to what a timeless LP is, and for some crazy reason the reader does not own or never heard this album to go buy it, along with both of the emcee’s catalogues. The odds of that last one is almost impossible, we suppose. Also, don’t forget to check out Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli’s recent moves, as they’re very notable. Talib is really fattening up today’s rap game with his recent Javotti Media successes. Stay tuned, trust us.
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