My Favorite Albums: Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star


I first heard Black Star in the summer of 1999. I was between my senior and “super senior1” years in college and was interning in New York (working on Long Island, living in Brooklyn). It was a special time in my life; I was evaluating my next steps through all prisms (social, spiritual, economic) and was making key decisions about the direction I wanted to take.

New York was the perfect backdrop for my sometimes poignant, often pointless ponderings on life. The city was a hotbed of activity and I took in my fair share –readings at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, jazz at the Blue Note, way-too-late nights out at countless Reggae clubs, and long walks throughout Manhattan.

It was on one of those long walks that I came across Black Star; by chance I walked into a free concert in Central Park. N’Dea Davenport was the featured performer. She was good… but the real stars were the lyrical duo of Mos2 and Talib. They flowed effortlessly on stage, as if they had been doing it for years.

I wrote their names down in my quotes book (along with the line “Your skin is the inspiration for cocoa butter”) and went on about my business… forgetting about them after a while.

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My Favorite Albums: Midnight Marauders

My love of A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders1 starts, like most stories, with a girl.

I was a junior in high school and was on campus late one Saturday evening for an anti-drug rally. There were some girls from a neighboring town in attendance and I had taken a liking to one of them. The rally ended at 10PM, but their ride was late… so I chivalrously (and maybe selfishly) volunteered to wait with them. It was cold, but that’s ok: I let lil’ shorty wear my Starter jacket2 (and didn’t wash it for a month afterward because it smelled like her) while we passed the time by trying guess the hard-to-decipher lyrics to the chorus of “Electric Relaxation”.

“Electric Relaxation” was to 1993 as “I Need Love” was to 1987. Q-Tip was the smooth operator; Phife Dawg was the realist (I love the line: ‘I like ‘em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian’). The beat3 (a masterfully reworked sample of Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew”) was an instant classic4.
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My Favorite Albums: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper

DJ-Rapper-CvrFlashback: December 25, 1988

I run to the living room to see what I gotten for Christmas. I’m 11 years old; too cool for toys and uninterested in clothes. I want a stereo and music. Fortunately, my dad doesn’t disappoint. I get a combo record player/double-bay tape deck stereo system and three classic albums: Run DMC’s Tougher Than Leather, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper.

He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper was on constant repeat in my brand-new stereo. I could recite every rhyme. I pretended to scratch like Jazzy Jeff1. It was the soundtrack to my final year in elementary school. That’s why it’s one of my favorite albums.

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