REVIEW: BLACK STAR | YASIIN BEY & TALIB KWELI LIVE IN LONDON

blackstar-1.16.2014

‘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.

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Apex Zero

Apex Zero

Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been express­ing his anti-polit­ic­al views and extend­ing his work towards defin­ing, inspir­ing and cre­at­ing last­ing change through Hip Hop for over a dec­ade. Apex has been work­ing with grass­roots and mil­it­ant organ­isa­tions, edu­cat­ing him­self and oth­ers, organ­ising and build­ing towards over­turn­ing the oppress­ive mech­an­ism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s under­ground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omni­scient. Years of earn­ing respect and enhan­cing their repu­ta­tion, which lead to col­lab­or­a­tions and work­ing rela­tion­ships with many of the scenes most prom­in­ent artists and organ­isa­tions, mani­fes­ted in the Octo­ber 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Real­ity Pro­vok­ing Lib­er­a­tion’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hard­core Hip Hop’ gathered inter­na­tion­al acclaim from both fans and crit­ics, fur­ther enhan­cing Apex’s repu­ta­tion as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-polit­ic­al, ‘revolu­tion­ary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been trav­el­ling out­side of the UK, seek­ing new per­spect­ives and aim­ing at enhan­cing his out­look, explor­ing dif­fer­ent soci­et­ies, con­nect­ing with Hip Hop heads, act­iv­ists and schol­ars world­wide. Like his music, his writ­ing is often an exten­sion of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whil­st enhan­cing and elev­at­ing both the cul­ture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.

About Apex Zero

Apex Zero
Apex Zero is an emcee and beat maker who has been expressing his anti-political views and extending his work towards defining, inspiring and creating lasting change through Hip Hop for over a decade. Apex has been working with grassroots and militant organisations, educating himself and others, organising and building towards overturning the oppressive mechanism at large since his mid-teens, around the same time that he entered London’s underground Hip Hop scene as part of his crew, First and Last with his brother OMeza Omniscient. Years of earning respect and enhancing their reputation, which lead to collaborations and working relationships with many of the scenes most prominent artists and organisations, manifested in the October 2013 release of Apex’s debut solo album ‘Reality Provoking Liberation’. The 15 tracks of self-described ‘Neo-Hardcore Hip Hop’ gathered international acclaim from both fans and critics, further enhancing Apex’s reputation as one of the strongest and clearest voices in anti-political, ‘revolutionary’ Hip Hop in the UK. Based in Beijing, China since 2014, Apex has been travelling outside of the UK, seeking new perspectives and aiming at enhancing his outlook, exploring different societies, connecting with Hip Hop heads, activists and scholars worldwide. Like his music, his writing is often an extension of his ideas and efforts to effect change in the world whilst enhancing and elevating both the culture of Hip Hop and the people who embody it.