Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (LP - Picture Disc)
Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star was released on August 18, 1998, to critical acclaim. The title is a reference to the Black Star Line, a shipping company founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. The album deals with modern-day issues, philosophies and life in Brooklyn. The two MCs had planned to release solo albums around the same time, but decided instead to collaborate on a full-length album. The first single, “Definition (song),” is a reaction to hip-hop’s fascination with death, dedicated to both Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., with a chorus that gives a nod to Boogie Down Productions’ “Stop the Violence.”
“Children’s Story” is a re-imagination of the Slick Rick original, featuring Mos Def cautioning against materialism. The second single, “Respiration,” featuring Common, includes a Hi-Tek produced beat that samples Don Randi’s “The Fox” and another from the hip-hop documentary Style Wars. The track offers a melancholy ode to city life, with references to organic life functions such as breathing, eating and sleeping, but with an ominous edge, as Kweli raps about “sitting on shitty steps/we stooped to new lows, hell froze/the night the city slept.” The album peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 13 on the Hip-Hop Albums chart, but has become considered a classic since then.