Talib Kweli Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Black Star "Astronomy" (1998)

Album: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Producer: Da Beatminerz
Label: Rawkus / Priority Records / EMI / MCA

Talib Kweli: “Yasiin Bey and I were very similar in style at that time. We were doing a lot of shows, open-mics, lyricist lounge events, and poetry readings together and we were becoming fast friends.

"Since Yasiin was on 'Fortified Live,' even if I wasn’t on a show with him or he wasn’t on a show with me, we would invite each other to each other’s shows. It got to the point where you got used to seeing us perform together. It became known that, if Yasiin was gonna perform, I’d probably do a cameo, and vice versa.

“Yasiin and I talked loosely about a group concept, but it was Jarret from Rawkus who was like listen, ‘We’ve got the Yasiin Bey album coming out, we’ve got the Reflection Eternal album coming out, but we’re having a hard time getting people to understand what you’re trying to do with you and Hi-Tek. How about you and Yasiin do an album together and I’ll pay for it?’

 

A lot of people think the Black Star thing was because of Marcus Garvey, but Yasiin was on some cosmic tip. He was talking about binaries and black stars in the cosmos and that’s where he was at. That’s why the first song is ‘Astronomy.’

 

“Yasiin and I had already discussed it a little bit, but we hadn’t taken the idea seriously. When Jarret offered us a deal to do it—he really offered me the deal. I was like, administering it. He gave me $30,000, which was like, ‘Okay, it went from $5,000 to $30,000.’ Even back then Yasiin was like, ‘That’s not enough, but whatever—let’s do it.’

“We ended up doing that entire album for like $70,000. We kept going back and asking for more money to mix, travel, and fly and everything. Once that offer was on the table, Yasiin came up with the idea.

"A lot of people think the Black Star thing was because of Marcus Garvey, but Yasiin was on some cosmic shit. He was talking about binaries and black stars in the cosmos and that’s where he was at. That’s why the first song is ‘Astronomy.’

“Rest in peace to Weldon Irvine, one of the greatest jazz musicians ever. He wrote and performed with Nina Simone and on his own. He had many jazz classics. Da Beatminerz produced that, Mr. Walt and Evil Dee.

"They sent us that beat, and then we recorded it in Funky Slice Studios in Brooklyn. Then we wanted keyboards on it. We asked Weldon Irvine to play the keys on it and he’s just phenomenal on it.”

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