Three Must-See Acts This Week

Black Star at the Fox on Friday, NAV at the Fillmore on Friday, and E.G. Phillips at Hotel Utah on Thursday.

Alternative hip-hop

Black Star (Talib Kweli & Yasiin Bey)

7 p.m., Friday, May 24, at Fox Theater, Oakland. $49.50;

Even with only one full-length album in their discography, Black Star have established themselves as one of the most important acts to come out of the 1990s underground hip-hop scene. The Brooklyn duo, comprised of Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey — formerly known as Mos Def — began performing as Black Star in 1997, and along with other members of the Native Tongues Posse, they helped usher in a new era of social and politically conscious hip-hop, bringing much needed new energy to the genre after the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. The duo released their 1998 self-titled debut album to unanimous critical praise. On it, the duo reflect on issues affecting the African-American community in an articulate and precise manner, sharing stories that were unknown to the world at large. Considered by fans and critics alike to be among the best in all of hip-hop, Black Star was instrumental in bringing the underground into the spotlight. Kweli and Bey have gone on to work on many other commercially and critically successful projects, and both have established themselves as legends in their own right. They’ve hinted that a new Black Star album may be on the way, but in the meantime, their debut remains just as strikingly relevant today as it did more than 20 years ago upon its release. 

Courtesy C Flanigan/FilmMagic




8 p.m., Friday, May 24, at The Fillmore. $35;

After entering “retirement” for two months earlier this year, Nav ditched the hiatus to release Hand Habits, his excellent sophomore effort — which became his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. The Toronto rapper, singer, and producer burst onto the scene in 2015 with a string of Soundcloud singles like “Take Me Simple” and “Myself,” the latter of which garnered mainstream attention after Kylie Jenner posted a Snapchat of herself singing along. Nav’s profile increased further after a collaboration with Travis Scott in 2016 on the single “Beibs in the Trap,” a sleek, dreamy track that was certified double platinum. After signing to The Weeknd’s XO label in 2017, Nav released two mixtapes, one self-titled and the other a star-studded collaboration with Metro Boomin, Perfect Timing. May 2018 saw the release of his debut full-length, Reckless, a confessional effort elevated by Nav’s opulent production technique. Focusing on the stronger aspects of his artistry, Nav released his sophomore album Hand Habits in March to glowing reception from fans.

Courtesy of the Artist


E.G. Phillips

(w/ More Hazards More Heroes) 8 p.m., Thursday, May 23, at Hotel Utah. $10;

Infusing his vivid lyricism with subtle humor and hints of pop-culture awareness, E.G. Phillips is a rising singer-songwriter set to release his sophomore album, At Home At Sea, in July. The local musician attributes his wide-ranging creative influences to Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, and Tom Lehrer, which set the stage for Phillips’ singular songwriting technique and knack for unconventional instrumentation. An active presence within the Bay Area’s independent music scene, Phillips’ shining personality enabled him to create E.G. Phest, an annual event that spotlights local singer-songwriters in addition to Phillips’ own material. In early 2017, he released his excellent debut album, Fish from the Sky, a whimsical and warm-hearted collection of songs that emphasizes Phillips’ natural songwriting talent. Phillips’ upcoming album, At Home At Sea, promises more of the cinematic lyricism that the musician excels at in his previous work, with more pronounced jazz influences. 

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