Two Brooklynites who might have stood in Times Square as teenagers taking pictures with their friends, now command a huge audience at the Best Buy Theater. Things in the city have definitely changed and so have the people. Blackstar, known individually as Mos Def (or these days Yasin Bey) and Talib Kweli, are finally putting together a sophomore album. Their debut was released over 10 years ago during the great divide in hip hop, between the underground (backpack) scene and the jiggy mainstream culture. In today’s audience, there isn’t a backpack to be found. People of all ages and colors have paid their hard earned money to hear their debut (Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Blackstar) in its entirety. Yasin and Kweli have come to deliver just that. But to be honest, with their solo careers at this point dwarfing their collaborative output, there is no way they could stick to the script.
A warm up set by World Famous Beat Junkie JRocc does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Although he has to fight off two chants of “Black Star” from the audience clamoring for the headliners to take the stage, J.Rocc comes out a winner. His display of mastery on the turntables makes an at times rabid crowd relax and even applaud his mixes of Ol Dirty Bastard and Stevie Wonder.
The main event finally begins with a short solo set by Kweli. If you didn’t know better it seemed like he was sent to appease crowd up after their almost 2 hour wait for Blackstar to take the stage.. He moves through songs like “I’m On One” and “The Blast” with ease and sets the tone for the evening. An a cappella rendition of the “Distraction” receives a roaring response from these fans who have yet to hear what they came to see. But that all changes with the one note indicating that the first song on the coveted debut album “Astronomy (8th Light)” is now on deck, and so is Yasin. With the gang all here everyone remembers instantly why they love Blackstar. Kweli is the technician in the group fitting as many syllables into his bars as humanly possible while Yasin brings the emotional element of the duo. Yasin dances and bops along in slacks and a tie giving the showmanship of a rocker while Kweli stays in pocket with precision. The verbal exercise of “Definition” with its exhausting verses causes even a pro like Yasin to take a drink mid verse. The crowd eats it up. They also dive in head first for the new material like the Madlib produced “Fix Up”.
At one point a fan having a little too much fun faints in front of the stage. Yasin and Kweli stop the show, alert security and even give a bottle of their own water from the stage to help. After taking a moment to make sure the fan is ok, they dedicate the next song to her and like a movie script the strings of “Respiration” begin. The place goes into a frenzy and immediately heads nod with hands in the air. The show continues with both members of the group pulling from their solo material, showcasing their individual directions as artists. The finale unifies everyone with perhaps each members biggest individual hit. Kweli reminds everyone in attendance what it takes to “Get By” and Yasin sings a moving rendition of “Umi Says”. It will be interesting to see what the new project from these two will sound like. After 10 plus years, it seems that in 2012 we will finally get to see if Black Star truly is a Twice Inna Lifetime movement.