Barricades lined the streets of New York’s Times Square Saturday evening. Barack and Michelle Obama dropped into town for dinner and a play (August Wilson revival Joe Turner’s Come and Gone). Just across the street at the Nokia Theatre, a packed house went wild while Mos Def and Talib Kweli reunited onstage as Black Star nearly 11 years after their classic, and only, studio album as a duo.
“Shout out to Michelle Obama!” Mos called out after the crowd sang along with “Brown Skin Lady,” a reverential ode to the fairer sex. “You know Obama’s up the block, right?” Mos asked, going into an Obama bit, acting as if he were exiting the Air Force One. “That’s right whitey! Deal with it!” He yelled, then assured the crowd: “I don’t mean the whiteys in here, you know what whiteys I’m taking about. Crazy whiteys.”
“Yeah, the crazy whiteys,” Talib agreed.
“But it’s a brand new daaay” Mos sang, introducing “Sunshine,” on which he boasted over Kanye West’s production about being a “Slim nigga that casts a big shadow.”
“It took a year and a half to get the deal done,” said show organizer Peter “Oasis” Prudente of LiveNDirect, who plans to take the reunion on the road to other cities. “The biggest obstacle was timing, finding a date that worked for both Mos and Kweli.” The time was right as both ready to release separate albums. Mos Def’s fourth solo album, The Ecstatic, is due out next week. Kweli is recording a Reflection Eternal follow-up with producer Hi-Tek. “Ayo Dante, don’t you have an album coming out?” Kweli asked after “K.O.S. (Determination),” plugging his partner’s new album. “I do got something coming out,” Mos took his cue. “I’m excited about it and you should be too.” Mos offered an autobiographical a cappella leading into a tribute to late producer J Dilla and other fallen rappers, referencing being born in ’73.” A fan turned to her pal after calculating Mos’ age: “35!”
“We sell, crack to our own out the back of our homes.” All hands and cameras were in the air as Kweli set off his Kanye West-produced hit “Get By.” “When people decide to keep on disguise you can’t see their eyes ’cause see they’re evil inside,” Mos added with emphasis before going into poignant favorites “Umi Says” and “Respiration.”
After rapping about being an extension of their ancestors, Black Star left with a quick but earnest thank you to New York City. A few hours later, they packed a second reunion show at the Nokia, taking advantage of being in the same place at the same time, at least for a night.
“Brown Skin Lady”
“Brooklyn” (third verse)
“Move Somethin’ “
“Brooklyn” (second verse)