Talib Kweli Details How He And Mos Def Became Family Before They Were Black Star (Video)
This week, Talib Kweli appeared on Desus & Mero to promote November 17’s Radio Silence album. That LP reunites Kweli with Jay Electronica and Anderson .Paak, as well as features a range of guests, from Waka Flocka Flame to Freestyle Fellowship’s Myka 9 to Rick Ross.
In making his return to the VICELAND talk show, Talib Kweli spoke about the days of freestyling in Lower Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. Some of this footage was documented in the 2000 film, Freestyle: The Art Of Rhyme, as it captured would-be signed MCs, including Mos Def (nka Yasiin Bey) in this very space.
Recently, Talib was asked how the two Brooklyn, New Yorkers (who founded Black Star) got to know one another. Ahead of 4:00, Talib says, “Yasiin Bey was a dude like—he was like hood-famous. I used to freestyle [in] Washington Square Park with like Supernatural and Mr. Man, [as well as] Agallah The Don Bishop [aka] 8-Off The Assassin. Mos used to come around buy people hamburgers because he had a job. Like, we all used to just freestyle for free. Mos was working on a show with ‘Theo’ [played by] Malcolm-Jamal Warner of The Cosby Show. He had [students] he was teaching [and] Mos was one of them kids. And then he did a show [You Take The Kids] with Nell Carter. He had did Cosby Mysteries. He had a Deion Sanders commercial [for Visa]. So he was out really doing his acting thing and coming to the park and rhyming.”
Mos was part of independent Hip-Hop group Medina Green. Kweli continues, “I was a fan of his. But then, our children were born around the same time—and he used to hang out at the bookstore; I worked in Nkiru Books. So he’d come around the bookstore [or] I’d go over to his crib, he’d come to my crib. We developed a family bond before we even talked about doing music—before he was even really a fan of mine. We just became family…that young-Brooklyn-dad-talk.” Ahead of Black Star’s album, in 1997, Kweli and Mos would buy the historic Nkiru Books, located in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The brick-and-mortar store was closed during their blossoming entertainment careers. In 2016, Talib re-opened Nkiru online.
With Desus Nice and Kid Mero Kweli also addressed this month’s 20th anniversary of Soundbombing, Vol. 1. That mixtape was a crucial introduction for him and Mos Def, and featured some of their earliest collaborations. Washington Square faithful Mr. Man and Agallah were also guests on the Rawkus Records release. “Rawkus’ success came from being able to capture the vibe of the Hip-Hop fan that wanted vinyl [but did not] have access to vinyl. So for myself to Black Attack, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Company Flow, Sir Menelik, people like that, it was just a scene that gobbled up the vinyl. Then, there was a mixtape scene [too]. The vinyl thing [catered to] kids who were outside of Hip-Hop culture at that point. If you was really, really from the hood and into Hip-Hop culture at that point, it was [about] mixtapes. It was [DJ] Doo Wop and Tony [Touch] and all that [in] that era. So Rawkus picked up on that and decided to do a mixtape. But they got creative with it. It was [DJ] Evil Dee for the first [Soundbombing], and then it was The Beat Junkies for the next one. The whole idea was to capitalize on the mixtape market, to make some money from it. That’s what Rawkus was trying to do. But Soundbombing ended up being classic. Soundbombing II, I guess, it’s the one that had Eminem on it. That’s Eminem’s first professional appearance, I think, and Eminem has just become such an icon for the culture, that anything associated with him just becomes iconic.” Soundbombing II included Da Beatminerz-produced “Any Man” featuring Slim Shady, as well as two appearances from Kweli and Hi-Tek’s Reflection Eternal group.
Kweli would leave Rawkus as the label dissolved in the mid-2000s. He since founded several imprints, and now releases material through Javotti Media / 3D. The MC mentors a crop of MCs including Niko Is and K’Valentine.
The Radio Silence tracklist and artwork:
1. “The Magic Hour”
2. “Traveling Light” ft. Anderson .Paak
3. “All of Us” ft. Jay Electronica & Yummy Bingham
4. “She’s My Hero”
5. “Chips” ft. Waka Flocka Flame
7. “Radio Silence” ft. Amber Coffman & Myka 9
8. “The One I Love” ft. BJ the Chicago Kid
9. “Heads Up Eyes Open” ft. Rick Ross & Yummy Bingham
10. “Let It Roll”
11. “Write at Home” ft. Datcha, Bilal & Robert Glasper
#BonusBeat: This week’s LAST 7 episode examines 9th Wonder’s reflections of Soundbombing: