Today in Hip Hop History: Black Star

Today in Hip Hop History: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)
Today in Hip Hop History: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)

Today in Hip Hop History: August 18, 1998

Conscious rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli shocked the hip hop world when they released their collaborative effort, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, through Rawkus Records in 1998. At a time when the hip hop industry had lost most sense of its roots and was transitioning into a period of superficial and commercial raps, Black Star brought it back with this album.  The title of the album is a direct reference to the Black Star Line, a shipping line founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. The album cover was designed by artist Brent Rollins.

Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star speaks on political issues, social hierarchies and other conscientious issues in the U.S. at the time of its conception. The album was produced by 88-Keys, Shawn J. Period, Hi-Tek, Geology, J. Rawls and Mr. Walt. It features the likes of Common, the late jazz musician Weldon Irvine, and Jane Doe, among a few others. The two album singles are “Respiration” and “Definition”.

“Definition” is a serious valuation to hip hop’s fascination with death, as well as a adherence to recently murdered emcees 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. “Brown-Skin Lady” is an emotional attribution to darker-skinned women. The emcees encourages black and brown women to be proud of their hair and complexion, and to not compare themselves by Western beauty standards. These are two examples of the philosophical perspective that the two legendary rappers took with this project.

Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star was released to extremely favorable critical review. It peaked at #53 on the Billboard 200 and #13 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums Chart in 1998.  Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star is a classic alternative/conscious hip hop album. It is one of the best collaborative albums in hip hop history.

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