Review: Black Star @ Club Nokia, December 15, 2011

Review: Black Star @ Club Nokia, December 15, 2011

Black Star
Photo by Sung. Full gallery here.

We all wonder, damn why can’t certain artists ever make another album like THAT ONE. Black Star never released a follow-up album to Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. Or maybe I should say, they haven’t yet. And maybe they don’t even need to.

That album is 13 years old, and Black Star are no longer technically Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Mos Def now goes by Yasiin Bey. Not a lot of albums can touch the soulful samples, potent lyrics, and underground sound of that first album. And the two MCs have ventured off into all kinds of other solo work since the 1998 album (Yasiin surfaced as Brother Sam on this season’s “Dexter”?)

They opened their set at Club Nokia on Thursday, Dec. 15, with a new song called “You Already Knew,” but the crowd went craziest over the tunes from that golden underground hip-hop record from 13 years ago. The second song they played was “Astronomy” off their original album, with its refrain “You know who else is a black star? (Who?) Me.”

Shinin’ and shinin’, they were rhymin’ and rhymin’, with great chemistry, bouncing around their bare 2-MCs-and-1-DJ stage setup, shooting lyrics back and forth between their old fashioned red and white mikes. Yasiin (still feels weird typing that instead of Mos Def) and Talib were looking dapper in their shirts, ties, trousers, and hats. J. Rocc, Stones Throw DJ and a founding member of the Beat Junkies, manned the turntables behind them, dropping longer hints of the original vinyl behind the samples from their hits – like opening “Brown Skin Lady” with a long intro of its sample “We Almost Lost Detroit” by Gil-Scott Heron.

The set was way long, with an encore that seemed to roll on for as long as the first half of the show. It was a nice change from most of the shortish sets in LA lately. The encore featured the two’s strongest solo efforts, too – Mos Def with “Umi Says” and Talib Kweli with “Get By.”

They still sing “1, 2, 3. Mos Def and Talib Kweli.” Maybe Mos’ name has changed off stage, but Black Star is still comin to rock it on to the tip-top. Best alliance in hip-hop. Wyooo.