Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Black Star

  • Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star [Rawkus, 1998] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star [Rawkus, 1998]
As "underground" freestylers, they like their beats stark, claiming old school and achieving arty like so many neoclassicists before them. Even saluting Slick Rick (in a tale where the bad kid jacks beats instead of grandmas) or the Funky Four Plus One (and neoclassicist breakdancers), they're never "raw," no matter what they think. On the contrary, they're cooked as hell. Making hard lyrical as they drop "black like the perception of who on welfare" and "you must be history because you keep repeating yourself," they devise a hip hop imaginary where hater players lose their girls-not-bitches to MCs so disinterested they give 'em right back. The rhymes are the selling point. But just because the beats are so understated, the subculture that cares most about those words is what you'll go back to. A-