Yasiin Bey & Talib Kweli Detail How Black Star’s Upcoming Album Came To Be
For nearly two years, Hip-Hop fans have heard bits and pieces surrounding a second album by Black Star. In February of 2018, Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) told concert-goers in Colorado that he and Talib Kweli were recording. “New Black Star with Madlib, Talib Kweli, Yasiin, coming soon!,” said the MC/singer. He added, “All Madlib, all day. 2018, Madlib, Black Star.” Kweli since corroborated those reports, recently proclaiming that he now listens to the yet-unreleased album regularly.
2018 came and went without new Black Star music. However, the Brooklyn, New York duo celebrated the 20th-anniversary of Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star with a series of reunion concerts. Since then, Yasiin has released a new album, Negus, as a museum art installation. Additionally, he worked with Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Robert Glasper as well as an early taste of recent Madlib work thanks to Freddie Gibbs and Otis’ “Education,” also featuring Black Thought. Meanwhile, Talib Kweli has moved into media with his People’s Party show, along with features for Gang Starr, Diamond D, and Brother Ali, to name a few.
In a Sole DXB panel discussion moderated by Bobbito Garcia and reported on by The National, the two MCs updated fans on the album, while speaking together, side-by-side.
“This new album is ridiculous,” Bey told applauding fans in Dubai. “And I don’t really care if you all don’t like it. This just means we like different things, and that’s fine.”
Kweli, who has been much more prolific with releasing music over the last decade, says that he felt pressure from fans. “People kept saying, ‘When is the next album coming up,’ so much that it got to a point that for me, personally, I caught myself also [asking] ‘When is the next album out?’ in all my conversations with Yasiin [Bey].” He says of a period around the mid-2010s, “I had to check myself because that can’t just be what our relationship is all about.” Upon a visit to South Africa to his friend, band-mate, and onetime business partner, Kweli approached the time together purely on humanity. “When I went there, I made it a point to not talk about music or Black Star. We have been friends for so long, and I couldn’t remember just breaking bread with Yasiin.” This friendship-focused energy reportedly persisted in hangs throughout Europe in the weeks and months that followed.
Kweli says that his rhyme partner’s changes since the late ’90s have an impact on his songwriting. “Because Yasiin is so focused on making sure that what we say with the music is deeper than just patting ourselves on the back and connected to a real compassion, there will be rhymes that I will kick, and he will say ‘ehh…’ because the rhymes are too braggy, and they are too much about me.” After making some revisions, Talib reflects, “Now I feel the new album is good and I really stepped my game up. It’s not that I am always rapping about those things, but he made me realize that I just don’t have to at all.”
Not unlike JAY-Z and Kanye West’s 2011 Watch The Throne album, Black Star’s sophomore LP was recorded in hotel rooms using mobile studio technology. Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris, and Amsterdam reportedly played host to some of the sessions. Yasiin notes that after three songs were made during the Denmark sessions, he felt confident in the momentum of the recording. “That is my template for an album. The first three songs that you record will be the vibe of the whole record. Whatever follows after this will follow the tone of those three.”
The pair reveal that comedian Marlon Wayans is among those who have heard the recordings.
Madlib is replacing a cast of producers including Hi-Tek, Da Beatminerz, J. Rawls, Shawn J. Period, 88-Keys, and others for the 1998 Rawkus Records LP.
Videos of Talib Kweli, including freestyles and interviews, are available at AFH TV. We are currently offering free 7-day trial subscriptions. Music from Yasiin Bey and Madlib is presently on the official Ambrosia For Heads Playlist.