Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli work together again through the combined medium of Black Star, this time releasing a mixtape in honour of Soul legend Aretha Franklin entitled “Black Star Aretha”. Madlib’s younger brother ‘Oh No is’ taking the production helm and blending a velvety beat comprised chiefly of smoky high pitched tweaked stabs, customised from the original larynx of Franklin herself, and soft soothing backing vocals that float lightly above an arrangement of sustained key chords, cascades of sleigh bells and a deliciously crispy snare tambourine combination. This aural delight is underpinned by tasteful, ever-grooving, syncopated kick and bass work. Stones Throw’s ‘Oh No’ is more famous for his sampling of diverse world, and film, music legends but since his departure from Madlibbian sounds, he moved away from producing beats for the likes of Juggaknots and De La Soul and has released a credible, lauded album Dr. No’s Oxperiment (2007). This featured a smorgasbord of mediterranean sounds from Turkish to Italian via Lebanon and Greece, as well as Dr No’s Ethiopium (2009) made up of Ethiopian music samples akin to the sample in Nas and Damian Marley’s “As We Enter“. But aside from the deft production on display here, the real heartbeat of Black Star is undoubtedly the powerfully insightful irony and dry wit of Messrs Bey and Kwe. Let us unravel a few lyrics that really wet the appetite; listen to the link below and check the delivery of these lines below the cut.
Stream: Black Star – You Already Knew
· “Funny people used to give my mom a hard time, now my President is black and his name is hard as mine”: A knowing nod to Jeezy’s Mr President; whilst also taking some comfort in the fact that a man in the highest office, stateside, has a name as complicated to pronounce as his.
· “Imagine if the Tea Party was black as the Caucus, they would be at the rally telling cops back up off ‘em”: If the Tea Party was comprised of only black members like the Congressional Black Caucus, they would have met quite a different response from authorities and the media – say akin to the Police response to the Black Panthers.
· “Do it for the glory, the ghetto, the war stories, soldiers on shore leave who occupy Wall Street”: Kwe, who has been an active member of the Occupy movement, has seen first hand how many active service personnel on leave come to demos and protests. Such is the righteousness and widespread appeal of the movement.
· “For good chicks who give it up to God on Sundays, pretty chicks walking on the project runways”: Kweli puns here on the word “project”, with a dash of double entendre – as in housing projects, and the popular fashion TV show Project Runway.
· “Rocking black on black like the project gunplay, your sun’ll come back out one day, trust me”: The former line simulataneously rhyming and ironising the use of firearms in the projects, whilst referring to black on black gun-crime.
Genius. The song has been given out as a free download, which can be found by following the instructions here. The mixtape is set to drop soon, but until then enjoy this one as well as the other leaked track from the mixtape, “Fix Up“.