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BLACK STAR: Higher Learning

“The best alliance in Hip-Hop…” is a sentiment that surged throughout the packed house at the Best Buy Theater in New York City, by those who came to see two of Hip-Hop’s most influential artists join forces once again, in celebration of their 13th anniversary of their debut and only release: “Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star”.

Words, Image & Video: alex-ray kairos*

I arrived an hour before showtime, but was greeted by two hours worth of delays courtesy of the venue’s staff and security. Issues of “proper” identification only made matters worse and at one point, I thought that it would cost me the entire experience. Nevertheless, all things considered, I eventually found my way in, but also in a situation where I had to exercise every guerilla tactic known to man in order to document this Black Star show.

Luckily for me, even though the law is the law, a strong sense of pride and confidence geared with a passion to win can easily subdue any obstacles within your way. So when Kweli decided to hit the stage at 8:45pm, I immediately tempted fate by ignoring, overlooking and straight disobeying any of the warnings that were given to me earlier. Sure they asked me to place my camera along with my other belongings in coat check, but such is life…

Back to Kweli. He graced the stage with the confidence of a veteran, a man that has mastered his craft time and time again. Thirteen years since Black Star’s first and only release, now Kweli seems like someone who is very aware of his status in the game. Dressed to kill with a paperboy hat. He is a legend and he knows it, so it was only right that he engaged with the audience in such a manner. He performed back to back hits from “The Blast”, “Move Something” and “Never Been In Love Before” to a crowd full of fans and supporters.

But as 9pm approached us, so did his legendary partner in crime, the almighty Mos, better known now as Yasiin, hit the stage with prominence. This brother is the definition of fresh. Comfortable in his own skin, he approached the crowd with a smile that could possibly diffuse any potential situations in the building. Well worth the wait, they got into “Astronomy (8th Light)” as the the crowd eagerly sang along. Then repped hard with the Brooklyn classics “Definition” and “Re: Definition”. The biggest highlight? In memoriam to one of Hip-Hop’s most sought after forefathers, the late, great Gil Scott Heron, together Black Star performed, “We Almost Lost Detroit”. Following this, Yasiin humbly said with ease, “Rest In Peace to the King”, the perfect segue into “Brown Skin Lady”, Black Star’s classic tune that features a Gil Scott sample.

Overall, it was a great show. As the end neared, they performed “History”, “Respiration” and closed out on Yasiin’s “Umi Says”. As I fumbled through to get shots and footage throughout the show, I realized just how special this group truly is to the culture. Critics often tend to pigeonhole them solely into the category of underground saviors, but when you get mentioned by power players such as Jay-Z, Kanye West and 50 Cent, how underground is that?

Follow Talib Kweli on Twitter, @TalibKweli
Follow Mos Def on Twitter, @MosDefOfficial

Words, Images and Video by alex-ray kairos*

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