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Black Star Sophomore Album Drops Nearly 24 Years After Critically Acclaimed Debut

It may not exactly be Christmas in July, but for fans of old-school hip-hop today might be just as special.

For the first time in nearly 24 years, a new Black Star album has dropped.

The release of “No Fear of Time,” first announced in April of this year, reunites Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. 

Their 1998 debut as a duo, “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star," was met with critical acclaim, helped bring alternative rap to the mainstream and launched the individual careers of two of the most prominent and successful rappers in the “conscious” rap movement.

The reunion, while highly anticipated, will require fans to put their money where their music is if they want to listen to the nine new tracks.

Subscription podcast platform Luminary, which arrived on the scene two years ago with much fanfare describing itself as the Netflix of podcasting, before fading mostly into obscurity, is the only place to access the music legally.

While a platform that prides itself on not inserting advertising into the podcasts it hosts may seem like an unusual place to release one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums in over two decades, the group has its reasons for the decision and believes that those who truly support them as artists and musicians will pay to listen (an annual subscription to the platform is around $35) to the new material.

“If you bought the Black Star album in the last 20 years, you paid Universal Records, which is one of the biggest companies on Earth. You know who you did not pay? You did not pay Black Star because we didn't see any of that money,” Talib Kweli told NPR’s Morning Edition when asked about the risk of putting Black Star’s music behind a paywall.

Courtesy Photo: Mathieu Bitton

He continued, “You know, people come and say, 'Hey, what about what I want? I want the vinyl. I want it on Spotify. I want...' What you want does not matter. Know what I'm sayin'? What Black Star wants matters.”

Kweli added that the album, produced by Madlib, confronts similar themes as the duo's past work, which was inspired in part by Amiri Baraka in the Black Arts Movement and Nina Simone among others, and concentrated on themes of black excellence, unity, confronting racism and elevating consciousness.

“We stand tall on the shoulders of our ancestors,” Kweli said. “The canon of black art is amazing, and it is the lifeblood of all great art that comes from America in particular. Black people in America have been the moral compass, and we have been the ones who have elevated the art and we have been the ones who have made the most original American things. Black Star started in Brooklyn, but at this point, we are citizens of the world, and I feel like this album represents that type of growth for us.”

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