With Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli’s new Black Star album finally being released on May 3, here’s a timeline of the duo’s inception up until now.
As you might’ve heard, Black Star, the rap duo made up of lyrical heavyweights Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli, is finally releasing their highly-anticipated sophomore album, No Fear of Time. Considering that it’s almost been 24 years since the group’s first album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, was released, it’s fitting that the group is making its return.
Granted, we’ve heard this a handful of times. Throughout the duo’s career there’s been talk of a new album only for it to never come to fruition. And although the duo continues to perform together, the idea of a new Black Star project hasn’t seemed like a reality — until now.
So, in anticipation of the release, we’ve made a timeline for the duo from their inception up until now. From live video performances to various interviews (and much, much more), we chronicle the one and only Black Star.
Arising out of the underground rap movement of the 1990s, Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, and Talib Kweli form Black Star, a reference to Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey‘s shipping line Black Star Line.
Black Star releases their one and only album, the seminal Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. The two decided to collaborate on an album together (postponing their own solo projects) because of their chemistry, crafting 13 tracks together with production from Hi-Tek, J. Rawls, 88-Keys, and others.
Combining samples from a number of sources (jazz alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley; jazz and soul poet Gil-Scott Heron; R&B and soul singer Minnie Ripperton; 1989 film Chameleon Street) with the boom-bap of New York rap, the production was just as engaging as Bey and Talib’s rhymes, the two speaking on subjects such as Afrocentrism, being black in America, materialism, and living in New York’s best borough, Brooklyn.
Black Star was well-received critically, earning the 24th best album of 1998 in The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll. And although it wasn’t a commercial success the album only made fans that much more excited for Bey and Talib’s solo albums, Black On Both Sides (1999) and Quality (2002), respectively.
The duo also appeared on BET’s short-lived music talk show Planet Groove, performing “Definition” and “Respiration” alongside Chicago rapper Common.
Black Star makes an appearance on DJ Tony Touch‘s Power Cypha 3 and…wow.
Black Star offers a quick but memorable freestyle on Rap City.
Black Star contributes to 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. Alongside legendary jazz musicians Ron Carter and John Patton, the rap duo performed “Money Jungle.”
Black Star’s song “Hater Players” is featured on The Wire episode “The Cost.”
Black Star performs “What’s Beef” for the season one finale of Chappelle’s Show. Both Bey and Talib had performed separately prior to this performance on the show, with Bey and Talib serving as Dave Chappelle‘s first and second musical guest, respectively.
Black Star performs at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York alongside Erykah Badu, The Roots, Kanye West, Common, John Legend, Bilal, and others. Ultimately, Chappelle’s event becomes a film two years later, allowing people who weren’t in attendance at the actual party to still witness what was surely a memorable day for everyone present. Black Star also contributes a new song to the soundtrack titled “Born & Raised.”
Talib Kweli tells hip hop website TheSituation.co.uk that a new Black Star album is “in the pipeline.”
Black Star participate in the now-defunct hip-hop music festival Rock The Bells, with their 2007 performance the most significant. Why? Well, 2007 marked the first time the duo had performed in New York City as a part of Rock The Bells. Plus the event, which was initially a one-day concert, expanded to two days because of how anticipated it was by fans.
Black Star reunites for two sold out shows at New York City’s Nokia Theatre. According to a review from Rolling Stone for one of the shows, Bey shouted out Barack and Michelle Obama, who were in the city for dinner and to see a play (August Wilson’s revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone).
Black Star plays a rare reunion show in Oakland, California. According to a review of the concert, it was the first time that Bey and Talib had performed together as Black Star since early 2009.
A new Black Star song titled “Fix Up” is leaked by DJ J Rocc. Following the leak, the rap duo performed the new track, as well as “Astronomy (8th Light)” on The Colbert Report. They also released another new track, “You Already Knew.”
The duo also performed their debut album in its entirety at Rock The Bells 2011.
In an interview with website Yeah, I Love It! Bey (who has now officially changed his name to Yasiin Bey) speaks on bringing Black Star back, as well as his working relationship with Talib.
“But now it feels like the right time for Black Star to come back,” Bey said. ” If we want to do it, then we have to do it for the right reasons.”
The duo also appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, performing “You Already Knew” and the J Dilla-produced “Little Brother” from The Hurricane soundtrack.
The duo also performed an hour-and-a-half set in Paris together that same year.
Bey is slated to perform alongside Talib as Black Star at the Brooklyn Bowl on December 17, but ends up dropping out because scheduling conflicts. However, the two did perform together in Brazil in May that same year.
Talib speaks with Vlad TV about the possibility of a new Black Star album, saying that the chances are “pretty slim.”
“Black Star is a very lucrative thing. But, you know, that album is special. You know, part twos are overrated, bruh,” Talib said. “People are always like…’You need to make a Black Star album part two.’ You know, how about you just go listen to the old one? The reason you like it so much is cause it is what it is. Appreciate it for what it is.”
Black Star announces a very short tour in Australia and New Zealand.
Bey announces his retirement from music, essentially deading any possibility of a new Black Star album coming anytime soon.
Black Star reunites as a part of a three-show retirement event Bey is doing at the Kennedy Center.
Bey announces that a new Black Star album is coming, and will be produced by Madlib.
Kweli then speaks on Bey announcing a new Black Star album.
“We’ve been talking about doing an album with Madlib for years. That’s been an idea we’ve had for so long, but for him to make that announcement…I didn’t know he was going to make the announcement,” Kweli said. “It’s an idea we have been discussing for a long time, now we just gotta make it happen.”
Following this, the duo performs alongside Black Thought and Lupe Fiasco for Power to the People, a benefit concert meant to help Puerto Rico raise funds for relief efforts after the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Bey and Kweli also perform a summer concert with Nas, as well as headline the 2018 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.
Madlib shares that he, Bey, and Kweli have recorded eight tracks together. Shortly after this, Dave Chappelle says that he has an exclusive leak from the new Black Star album, and claims that it’s “fire.” A month later, Kweli offers an update on the album and says that he, Bey, and Madlib have been working on the new Black Star album “a lot lately.”
He followed up on this update recently while speaking with Ebro Darden. While talking about Black Star’s special one-off show with DJ Premier as Black Star Gang, Kweli said that the new Black Star album is done and they’re “just trying to figure out when and how to release it.”
“I listen to it all the time,” Kweli also said about the album.
Shortly after this, Bey gave his own update on the project, and said that it’s coming “soon, soon!” Since then, the last update to have been offered came from Madlib and his manager Egon, with the latter confirming that the album is being mixed.
In April, Kweli offers an update on the album and says that he and Bey are “Trying to find the right deal for the Black Star album” during an interview with All Hip Hop.
“There are a few on the table, but we have to choose the right situation and roll this out properly. The people deserve that,” he said.
Two months later, Kweli shares in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that the duo were in the “final stages” of the album, and assures fans that he is “working hard to get it out to the people.”
However, the following month Kweli hints that the album may never get released, telling fans that “Too many interlopers and culture vultures in the way” are in the way of the album’s release.
“I’m a fan of Black Star too. I want to see this come out as bad as y’all do, or more,” he said in a since-deleted Instagram post. “But people who never made a beat, never wrote a rhyme in they life got they fingers in the pie and are being disrespectful to what me and my brothers built. It’s in Gods hands now. I’m on to other things, life is too short to be disrespected by culture vultures. Maybe y’all will get to hear this album after I’m gone.”
In May, Black Star unveils a new track produced by Madlib on their Midnight Miracle podcast series with Dave Chappelle. But after the song’s premiere on the podcast, Bey spoke on the album’s delay while railing against the streaming industry (and incessant fans) on an episode of Kweli’s The People’s Party podcast.
“You mean to tell me that the source of labor at the center of this experience is supposed to be satisfied and grateful with receiving a portion of a penny for their efforts and labor?” Bey said while also referring to streaming as a “colonial hangover” before directing his attention at fans.
“You motherfuckers don’t get to tell me what to do with what I make,” Bey said. “I’m not interested in my own misery. So I’m not interested in the misery that anybody’s trying to put on my back. If you’re trying to tell me that I got to put it out on your schedule and not get paid what it’s worth, but what you tell me it’s worth, then we’re always going to have a fucking problem.”
Black Star announces a release date for their long-awaited album. Titled No Fear of Time, the album will be released through an unexpected platform — the podcast platform Luminary — on May 3. Teasing the album, the duo also releases its lead single “Mineral Mountain” via Luminary. The song features fellow revered MC Black Thought.