Release Date: 01.28.99
Record label: Rawkus
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.
Redefintion of Hip-Hop
Was anyone else frustrated by the nominations for this year's Grammy awards? Hip-hop junkies everywhere will agree that there was talent left out left-and-right. In the words of the RZA, Will Smith may be rapping, but it's not hip-hop. To put it differently, the music industry is begging for a hip-hop artist category at the Grammy's. 1998 saw a list of incredible list of hip-hop albums, none of which were recognized for what they are. This includes 1998's releases by Goodie Mob, Gang Starr and most of all, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star.
This release on Rawkus records is the intellectual communion that hordes of hip-hop fans have been waiting to partake in. Black Star is littered with original sampling and mixing throughout ranging from haunting guitar licks to pulsing kicks flowing below. The inset brings the listener closer to the artists through comments by each on each track as well as showing everyone how ridiculous the "No Limit" image is with their own mockery of the stereotype blueprint album cover.
But the best lies in truly listening to what is being said. The way the two twist lyrics around each other like serpents around a medical cross is unlike anything being done today. Each posseses to use their voices as rhythm and melody together by matching beats of their lyrics to whichever rhythms they use, ranging from triplets to prose to sixteenths.
Even more than these is the lyrical content. "Astronomy" challenges the listener to educate him/herself of their own history and understand their roots to gain the gift the enlightenment brings. This is done through references to Clark's "Faces at the Bottom of the Well" as well as other powerful messages.
"Definition" gives both a commentary and an advisory of what hip-hop is and where it's going. No matter how they deny it, "Children's Story" is a laughable spin on Slick Rick's classic about a certain MC who claims "we can't hold him down." "Brown Skin Lady" profiles what relationships have become as well as bits of life experience. "Respiration" kicks some hard beats, while featuring Chicago's own Common, in giving insight into walking the breathing city. "Thieves in the Night" drives important life lessons with accentuations by author Toni Morrison's messages for us all.
Overall, Black Star is a triumph for what hip-hop has the potential to become. It calls for a self-reeducation as well as self-reevaluation, while kicking some of the most diverse and driving beats out. 10-Feb-1999 4:00 PM