‘Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star’ is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums in the history of Hip Hop music. At the time of release, it brought together 2 of the hottest underground lyricists and encapsulated the resurgence in Afrocentric, politically aware Hip Hop and Neo Soul of the late ‘90s that both emcees were at the centre of alongside the likes of Common, Erykah Badu, The Roots and Dead Prez. It feels strange to talk about either Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) or Talib Kweli as ever being underground, seeing the astronomical success both have had since, but a lot of that is due to the incredible foundation they set for themselves with the only Black Star album they’ve ever recorded, and like any classic, it sounds as fresh today as it did back when I first heard it.
The impact and reach of the album was clear when I walked through the door of the Troxy on October 20th and firstly saw how full it was, then walked around and saw a crazy amount of important figures of the UK Hip Hop scene. The place was so crowded that when looking on social media the next day there was actually as many people I didn’t see as the ones I did, all posting pictures and clips of the show.
Due to other commitments I got there a bit late and didn’t manage to catch the dope supporting acts Awate and Homeboy Sandman, but my brothers that I met there assured me that both had put it down, Awate reppin’ for London as always and Homeboy Sandman signifying an example of the generation of US emcee inspired by Black Star.
Luckily enough I got in just before the main event. The show was so full that the front layer of the crowd had been sealed off. I managed to get to the front of that barrier and got a good spot to see the show. Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli came out to a deafening reaction from the crowd. The stage was lit in a dope way and graphic setup on the screen behind them really fit the atmosphere. The stage was set for an incredible show.
Unfortunately, something had gone wrong with the sound. At times the tunes were barely recognizable, a few times the artists had to direct the sound-man to fix certain things and at one point they were sharing a mic. But still, the technical difficulties weren’t enough to kill the vibe. Both Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli are seasoned performers and they brought enough charisma and stage presence to keep the crowed on it through the whole performance – by the end, Yasiin Bey was handing out roses to the ladies at the front; pure showmanship. They reeled through a ridiculous set of classics from two incredible solo careers, collaborations between the two on each other’s projects and, of course, masterpieces from the Black Star album like ‘Thieves in the Night’, ‘Astronomy (8th Light)’, ‘Brown Skin Lady’, ‘Definition’ and ‘Re: Definition’. When they dropped my favourite track ‘Respiration’ I was going wild along with most people inside.
I thought hearing that track would be the highlight of the night, but just as the show was coming to an end, a special guest was announced. Now this is something that happens a lot, and when they said it, I thought it might be a UK legend, as there were a lot of them in the audience. I never thought it would be who it was…Wu-Tang founder the RZA. Everyone in the Troxy went nuts. RZA made the point himself that he had never collaborated with either Kweli or Yasiin Bey, and them sharing a stage was long overdue. The trio put bars down over Wu joints and gave the people who’d come out something to properly talk about and remember. It was a wild ending to a dope event.