Black Star's Mos Def and Talib Kweli
With Jay Rock, Black Bobby, and DJ D-Up
Presented by Rock the Bells
Fillmore Miami Beach
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Better Than: Most Tuesdays on God's great spaceship, Earth.
Last night, those two underground hip-hop heroes (and Marcus Garvey devotees) corralled a couple thousand heads who'd filled the Fillmore Miami Beach and hustled them aboard the Black Star Line, chanting "Lord, Lord have mercy/All nice and peace and true, follow me now."
In the hope of momentarily reversing the rotation of our planet, propelling us all through the time-space continuum, and reupping that grassroots rap revolution that never really seized the last days of the 20th Century, Def and Kweli called on the people to raise their fists to the sky and shout, "We rulin' hip-hop."
Another soldier rap revolutionary, Miami's own Black Bobby, alongside DJ D-Up, kicked off the trek at 8:33 p.m. with a 40-minute set of classically oriented backpack boom bap. And as he pledged in a pre-show convo with Crossfade, Bobby dropped a stack of tracks -- "Lil Ole Man," "Supa Dope," "Stunt Hard," etc. -- off his new Best Kept Secrets EP.
After Black Bob bounced, though, there was an hour-and-a-half lull. (I guess tooling up the time machine takes a lot longer than 20 minutes.) But the heads stayed patient, waited, and sparked their spliffs while nodding along to A Tribe Called Quest tracks and other smooth shit spilling from the Fillmore's speakers.
Shortly after 10 p.m., 20-year turntable veteran and Beat Junkies founding father J Rocc took up the spot behind the decks, slicing and dicing classic soul, deep funk, old-school, new-school, and no-school stuff. With superhuman dexterity, he cut, stutter-stepped, and slashed from Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" to Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" through Sugarhill Gang's "Apache," Jay Dee's "Fuck the Police/Sucka MCs," and Gang Starr's "DWYCK."
Then about 45 minutes later, a pair of vintage mikes (red for Def, white for Kweli) were set at the edge of the Fillmore's stage. The heads started howling. And J finally called out the Black Star brothers.
Rocking Malcolm X shades, a nice short-sleeved linen shirt, and a fedora with the brim flipped up, Kweli strode to the mike and shouted to the audience. Seconds later, Def popped out from backstage, smiling in a plaid golf hat, navy blue sports coat, and baggy jeans. And together, they welcomed us all to '98.
Now, we the heads were promised a cover-to-cover performance of the duo's absolutely essential debut (and only) full-length collabo slab, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star. And that's more or less what we got.
But like the earlier Rock the Bells show with Raekwon and Ghostface busting out Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, this wasn't no simpleminded, opening-track-to-closing-track rendition of a rap cannon classic. It was a freeform reinvention of the Black Star record, packed full of brainy musical asides, solo tracks, and other deep Def-Kweli cuts.
They ripped through "Astronomy" and "This Means You." They led a thousand-strong sing-along to "Definition," ("One, two, three/Mos Def and Talib Kweli ... One, two, three/It's kinda dangerous to be an MC"), briefly covered Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry," and dedicated the heart of their set to the late hip-hop pioneer and street poet Gil Scott-Heron while sprinting through tracks like Mos Def's "Auditorium," Black Star's "Brown Skin Lady," Kweli's "The Blast."
As Def and Kweli skidded toward the end of their set, they took a moment between songs -- "Respiration" and "Thieves in the Night" -- to start up a short socio-political discussion with the heads in attendance. The topics: The BET Hip-Hop Awards, Oprah, Obama, and the recent execution of death row inmate Troy Davis, whose guilt had been long disputed by the rap community and many others.
Telling everyone to take out a camera phone or Flip, Mos Def said, "The BET Awards are happenin' in Atlanta, Georgia, apparently this weekend on Saturday, right? I'm making a strong, serious recommendation and suggestion ... If you are doing or hosting this event in Atlanta, Georgia, right after this young man, Troy Davis, was brutally murdered, in public for the whole world to see, you should definitely dedicate one part of your show.
With those words and raised fists, Def and Kweli launched into their own tribute to Troy: a ferocious take of "Thieves," the set's final song.
No doubt, though, that wasn't really the end. After just a minute of crazed clapping and "Black Star! Black Star! Black Star!" chants, Def and Kweli came rumbling back out, still sweating and started up the party again.
Sure, you could call it an encore. But it was more like a second full show. There were eight songs, beginning with Talib's "Supreme, Supreme" and finishing with Mos's "Umi Says," before giving way to a communal vibe-out set to a seemingly never-ending version of Tony Williams's time-traveling instrumental epic, "Wildlife." Def couldn't stop dancing. Kweli was doling out high-fives to every single head. They didn't wanna say goodbye.
Like homie behind me said: "Now that's a fuckin' encore."
Like homie behind me said: "Now that's a fuckin' encore."
The Crowd: Middle-aged b-boys, Muslim sistas, white boys in doo-rags, single ladies, baked backpackers, and punky rap groupies.
Black Bobby's Setlist
-"The Ghost of Robert Kennedy"
-"Lil Ole Man"
-"I Am Legend"
-"Black Super Hero"
-"In the Bag"
-"You Like Me"
-"U Street Chillin"
-"Coming Soon (Lebron's Ring)"
J Rocc's Partial Setlist
-Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jam Rock"
-Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People"
-Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M."
-Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
-Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
-James Brown's "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose"
-Sugarhill Gang's "Apache"
-Dr. Dre's "Nothin' But a 'G' Thang"
-Erykah Badu's "The Healer"
-Slum Village's "Fall-N-Love"
-Busta Rhymes's "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check"
-Jay Dee's "Fuck the Police/Sucka MCs"
-Gang Starr's "DWYCK"
-LL Cool J's ""Doin It"
Black Star's Setlist
-"This Means You"
-"No Woman, No Cry"
-"Brown Skin Lady"
-"Thieves in the Night"
-"I'm on One"