In 1998, Black Star’s debut—humbly titled in straightforward introductory style as Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star—stood as a galvanizing hip-hop bulwark, the last line of defense in a battle that set consciousness and introspection against hedonism and materialistic excess. We all know how that battle between the backpackers and the bling bling played out.
It’s bizarre to think back to such a strict aesthetic divide, one that demanded you take sides, where it felt as if nothing less than the future of a music was at stake. Most of us, including Black Star’s principals, have moved on. Mos Def and Talib Kweli have kept busy in the ensuing years, with the former exploring a vibrant acting career and the latter working with Will.i.am, Just Blaze and Kanye West.
The two have occasionally reconvened as Black Star to remind folks what a potent team they still make and how incredible hip-hop can sound when drawing from jazz and philosophy. These rare appearances are buoyed by constant rumors of a second album. Just what a second Black Star album would sound like in 2011, let alone what it would mean, is anyone’s guess. Considering the duo’s stalwart MCs, they wouldn’t bother if the message wasn’t worth hearing.