DJ Mr. E
July 31, 2010
@The Fox Theater, Oakland
Better than: A decade's worth of (mostly) socially indifferent mainstream hip-hop.
Nearly twelve years after the release of their only full-length collaboration — 1998's Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star — the now-name-brands Mos Def and Talib Kweli reminded a reverent crowd at Oakland's Fox Theater on Saturday that none of the sizzle has dissipated from the album's pointed, positive verse. Black Star is remembered as a success of social criticism and artistry in a crowded field of thumping would-be preachers, and Saturday's show raised the volume on its strengths: Both of the charismatic MCs rapped in a vivid, English-major vocabulary, using their ear for off-kilter meters and internal rhyme. And the themes of Black Star — the troubles of violence and disillusionment in black American culture, as well its underappreciated beauties — felt relevant, the group's willingness to wrestle with them refreshing, on a Saturday night in a downtown landscape of still-boarded-up windows and eerie posters bearing the smiling face of Oscar Grant.