Last Wednesday night, Black Star brought their outstanding hip hop to the Mezzanine in downtown San Francisco. I’ve seen many great acts there and I was originally disappointed when Tuesday’s show sold out, but Black Star graciously announced a second appearence on Wednesday and I immediately snatched up my tickets.
The concert itself was stupendous, to say the least, with DJ D Sharp spinning amazing underground and old school tracks between the other acts. Up first was Pep Love, one of the legendary founders of Oakland-based hip hop group Hieroglyphics. His rhymes were fresh and I immediately became enamoured by his stage presence, as he dropped jokes and comments only Bay Area folks would understand. Incredibly versatile, Pep Love gives me reassurance that real Hip Hop is not dead and will never die.
For those uninitiated, Black Star is comprised of the legendary Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Talib Kweli’s name literally means “seeker of truth” which, which perfectly defines his delivery and what he expects from his fanbase. Kweli’s lyrics are hard hitting, with a rare political flare which feels especially appropriate in these times. Mos Def, who recently changed his stage name to Yasiin Bey, is one of the legendary thinkers of hip hop. When Mos performs, he keeps it true and brings natural, raw talent to anything he does.
Black Star always waits awhile after the openers to perform—they took the stage at midnight. Their arrival was a source of positive energy which empowered the crowd with a second wind after so much dancing. Black Star’s set was incredible from start to finish—it just flowed, without any pause from moving feet / booties. Most of their main set was from their 1998 self-titled debut album, but there were some tracks that were definitely new to me, which will hopefully be released on Black Star’s new album planned for 2012. When they came back for the encore, the show really took off. There were some new songs, some covers, and a really great battle of flows between the two giant MCs.
Toward the end of the set they invited the cast of the musical Fela! on the stage, based on the Nigerian musician and composer Fela Kuti, who also had a long history of political activism. The actor playing Fela sang some his songs and danced with all the beautiful dancers, which was incredible, colorful, and epic. After the dancers left the stage, Mos Def came on to do some of his own dancing to some old school R&B and Jazz. He moved gracefully and methodically and drew more than a few reactions from the ladies in the audience.
The night as a whole was one of the most positive shows I’ve ever experienced. The crowd was gracious and friendly, the sound was flawless, and the ladies were beautiful as always. With a new album on the way, here’s hoping Black Star tours again – next time, I won’t hesitate in grabbing my ticket.