Black Star

For a brief moment in the late Nineties it seemed as if the hip-hop revolution was at hand. The community was still reeling from the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, with many of the genre's diehard fans turning away from the bling of mainstream hip-hop. Leading the revolt were two of Brooklyn's finest MCs: Mos Def and Talib Kweli, collectively known as Black Star. But the best thing about Black Star wasn't what the duo said -- any MC with a mike and a Noam Chomsky book could've been "revolutionary" -- it was how they said it. Politically inflammatory songs such as "Thieves in the Night" and "Re:definition" were too emotionally poignant to be pedantic, while tender odes such as "Brown Skin Lady" and "Respiration" contain some of the most compelling imagery the genre has ever known. And unlike other indie acts from that era, Black Star never burned out in an underground sweatbox that was too insular to be truly progressive. Instead the group simply disappeared, leaving behind a trail of uneven solo albums, a stunted indie insurgency, and a sole masterwork, the self-titled 1997 debut that serves as a high-water mark for hip-hop's DIY movement. Long live Black Star.


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