Black Star (rap duo)

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Black Star
Black Star at the 2012 Ilosaarirock festival.
Black Star at the 2012 Ilosaarirock festival.
Background information
OriginBrooklyn, New York, U.S.
GenresAlternative hip hop[1]
Years active1997–present
LabelsRawkus Records
Associated actsCommon, Hi-Tek
MembersMos Def
Talib Kweli

Black Star is an American hip hop duo formed in 1997, from Brooklyn, New York City, New York. The duo is composed of rappers Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli. The duo is named after The Black Star Line, a shipping company founded by Marcus Garvey.[2] They have released a number of singles and one album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star on September 29, 1998.[3]


Black Star arose from the underground movement of the late 1990s, which was in large part due to Rawkus Records, an independent record label stationed in New York City.[3] They, together with other members of the Native Tongues Posse, helped shape underground alternative rap, bringing it into the mainstream. Both Mos Def and Talib Kweli have gone on to greater commercial and critical success in their solo careers.[3]

Black Star's message on their original album carried a lot of weight, from both their lyrics about social consciousness and political issues as well the strong statement in the wake of the deaths of both Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur in the late 1990s, during which an adolescent hip-hop culture suffered in the vacuum of iconic leadership provided by Smalls and Shakur. Black Star attempted to reconcile these tensions in their songs "Definition" and "Re:Definition" which share the same lyrics on their self-titled album: “I said one, two, three / It’s kinda dangerous to be an emcee / They shot Tupac and Biggie / Too much violence in hip-hop, Y-O

In 2001, Black Star performed "Money Jungle" with Ron Carter and John Patton for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. In 2002, the song "Hater Players" was used in an episode of The Wire, The Cost. In 2005, hip hop website reported Kweli said that a new Black Star album was "in the pipeline".[4] On Talib Kweli's Myspace he posted up a video saying that "We're going to find Mos Def and put it on camera that there will be a second Black Star album." In 2006, Mos and Kweli appeared together in the movie Dave Chappelle's Block Party, alongside Erykah Badu, Common, Jill Scott, Dead Prez and The Fugees, among others. They contributed a new song, "Born & Raised", to the movie's soundtrack.

The first new Black Star song was leaked via DJ J Rocc from Stones Throw Records. The song is produced by Madlib and is titled "Fix Up". On October 5, 2011, Black Star appeared on The Colbert Report and publicly performed the song for the first time. On November 25, Black Friday "Fix Up" was released on iTunes followed by another song titled "You Already Knew".

A second album, to be produced entirely by Madlib, was confirmed to be finished in November 2019, and is awaiting release.[5]


Studio albums[edit]

List of albums, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications Sales


Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star 53 13
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


List of singles as featured performer, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
US[9] US
"Definition" 1998 60 31 3 Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
"Respiration" (featuring Common) 1999 54 6
"One Four Love Pt. 1"
(featuring Common, Kool G Rap, Pharoahe Monch, Posdnuos, Rah Digga, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Sporty Thievz)
1999 55 4 6 Hip Hop for Respect EP
"Fix Up"[11] 2011 N/A
"—" denotes a title that did not chart, or was not released in that territory.

Other collaborations[edit]


  1. ^ "Black Star feat. Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) + Talib Kweli - SOLD OUT | Gigs and Tickets". March 30, 2014. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2019.
  2. ^ "Black Star | Biography & History". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2020-06-08. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  3. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Nineties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 48/9. ISBN 0-7535-0427-8.
  4. ^ "Talib Kweli". 4 December 2005. Archived from the original on 4 December 2005. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  5. ^ Erika Marie (November 7, 2019). "Talib Kweli Confirms Black Star And Madlib's Joint Album Is Finished". HotNewHipHop. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  6. ^ "Mos Def Album & Song Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  7. ^ "Mos Def Album & Song Chart History: R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  8. ^ "Mos Def Album & Song Chart History: Rap Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Mos Def Singles at AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  10. ^ a b c "Hip Hop For Respect EP Chart History". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Fix Up - Single by Black Star". Retrieved 5 June 2019 – via

External links[edit]