On Aug. 26, 1998, Mos Def and Talib Kweli formed Black Star and released “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star.” Thirteen years later, as a part of a special Rock The Bells Tour, these two graced the stage at the TLA in front of a sold-out crowd and performed the entire album from start to finish.
For four and a half hours, fans waited for Black Star to begin their performance. That time frame was filled with three DJs and one opening act, Ground Up. Finally, after a brief DJ set, J. Rocc of the Beat Junkies began playing the intro from the “Black Star” album, and moments later, Mos Def and Talib Kweli walked on the stage. Instantly, the crowd awoke from their grouchy moods and shifted their undivided attention to the two performers in front of them.
From the moment they began rapping, Black Star shined as everyone in the audience expected. Mos Def showed off his incredibly unique voice and style, and Talib Kweli delivered his elaborate verses with emotion and energy. These two artists are amongst the few true hip-hop artists left in the industry, and on this night, they took everyone in the audience back to the sound that began their careers in 1998. Along the way, they paid homage to their predecessors and peers Slick Rick, J. Dilla and the late Gil Scott-Heron. As they went through the “Black Star” album, they continued to show why they were still the “best alliance in hip-hop,” as they declare on “Definition” and “RE: DEFinition.”
One of the highlights of the night took place when Mos Def soulfully sung the chorus on “K.O.S. (Determination)” with the help of the audience instead of bringing out a female singer to do the job. He was pouring his heart and soul into the song as he sung, “The things I say and do, may not come clean through, my words may not convey just what I’m feeling.”
After performing one of the most powerful songs on the album, “Thieves in the Night,” Black Star finished their set with the last song on the album, “Twice inna Lifetime.” Following the roar of applause, Mos Def and Talib Kweli graciously accepted the praise from the crowd and slowly left the stage.
Shortly thereafter, the crowd rallied to bring the two hip-hop legends back out for a nine-song, 40-minute encore. After performing “History” and “Supreme, Supreme” together, both artists took center stage alone to perform some of their solo songs. To close the show, Kweli performed his most popular song, “Get By,” from his 2002 album, “Quality.” Mos Def then closed the show with “Umi Says” from his debut album, “Black On Both Sides.” After singing, “I just wanna leave and fly away, fly away,” he pulled the plug from his microphone and saluted the crowd to bring the show to an end.
For one night, Mos Def and Talib Kweli brought real hip-hop back to their loyal fans through their incredible performance of their legendary album. If they stay true to their word, there will be a new Black Star album in 2012.