Black Star – “no fear of time” review

This is the highly anticipated sophomore album from Brooklyn duo Black Star. Consisting of Yasiin Bey & Talib Kweli, the pair started off as childhood friends before dropping their self-titled debut in the fall of ‘98 to universal acclaim. Both parties would go on to have very successful solo careers of their own, but reunited with Madlib in late 2019 when they recorded no fear of time & is finally seeing the light of day thanks to Luminary.

“O.G. (On God)” opens up the album talking about how the real don’t die over a bass-guitar & some strings hanging in the background whereas “So Be It” has somewhat of a rugged quality to the instrumental going at the throats of anyone who wants to step up to them lyrically. “Sweetheart. Sweethard. Sweetodd” takes a more soulful route getting romantic just before “My Favorite Band” works in a crooning vocal sample to make a dedication to their favorite group of human beings.

Meanwhile on “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”, we have Yasiin & Kweli on some pianos & dusty drums talking about how automatic they are leading into the entrancing “Yonders” delivering bars like “Real G’s try to stop the violence” as well as how Satan runs everytime they smell him coming. The track “Supreme Alchemy” shoots for a more mellow sound talking about paying tribute & commemorating shortly after while the penultimate song “Freequency” with Black Thought finds the trio over a beat with some jazzy undertones to it repping the few that can sell you their life stories. The title track ends the album by keeping the jazz going talking about floating on.

I didn’t think this album would ever see the light of day, but I’m sure happy as Hell that it did because this is a stellar follow-up to their self-titled debut. Madlib’s production is a bit more abstract in comparison to the duo’s debut, but both of them sound incredibly laser-focused & manage to deliver the conscious hip hop we’ve all come to know & love them for as if it hasn’t been almost 24 years.

Score: 4.5/5

Gotham – Self-Titled review

Gotham is an MC/producer duo from New York consisting of Talib Kweli & Diamond D. The latter being a founding member of the seminal collective D.I.T.C. & was one of the first to co-sign Kweli back when he originally formed Black Star alongside childhood friend Yasiin Bey. The first time we really heard Gotham together was on “Where’s the Love?” off of Diamond D’s 2014 solo album The Diam Piece & then they got back for “The Zone Out” on the follow-up The Diam Piece 2 back in 2019 but ever since then, they’ve been hard at work on their full-length debut as a duo & I’m very excited to hear the results.

“Sons of Gotham” kicks the album off with a misty boom bap beat along with lyrics calling out “rappers acting like Kanye” whereas the next song “Olympic” incorporates an organ & a guitar as Kweli proclaims that they do this rap shit for sport. “The Quiet One” touches down on being the voice of the people accompanied by an eerie instrumental & an animalistic Busta Rhymes verse while “On Mamas” goes into a more synth-heavy direction with Kweli spitting about getting the speakers pumping. Meanwhile, the song “Attention Span” is a more atmospheric cut addressing those who’re out to lunch & the Skyzoo verse hits the nail on the head.

The track “In Due Time” is a fiery anthem about how you’ll be getting yours eventually on top of a classy boom bap instrumental whereas John Forté of all people comes into the fold to take a jab at the system on the minimally-produced “Pick Ya Head Up”. The song “Chillin’ While Black” is the one of the only 2 on the entire thing where Diamond D himself jumps on to spit as he & Kweli talk about racial profiling over a horn-inflicted beat & even though the penultimate track “I’ll Tell Ya Later” has a cool concept, the skeletal beat is underwhelming & the Niko Is feature is kinda weak. The album does end strong though, as Kweli & D hop on a dusty instrumental with some jazzy undertones to talk about holding it down.

Despite the fact that Talib’s recent output has been hit or miss with me admittedly, Gotham knocked it out of the park on this one. He & Diamond D do a damn-near perfect job at paying homage to their home-state as the lyrics & production both take listeners back to the traditional days.

Score: 4.5/5