10th Record(s): Black Star “Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star” and Kurtis Blow “S/T”

I’ve been having issues here. I’m doing my best to stay above water over Movie Meow-Meows, but even that’s been a challenge. I’ve been without a computer for nearly a month, thanks to a burnt out logic board and a couple botched repair efforts by Apple and their certified repair folks. So I’ve been relying on a loaner Windows laptop at the office; that computer has the computing power of a Gameboy, but I don’t really remember the Windows world too well. Screenshotting, editing, or anything beyond “reading e-mail” has felt like a Herculean chore to me. Because, you know, I’m a baby.

Anyway, I did burn through a couple records on my 10th Record project and just haven’t documented them. These actually go pretty well together since the Black Star record is so steeped in 80s hip-hop — not as far back as the Kurtis Blow stuff, but still, nearly twenty years since its release(!) it feels okay to lump that proto-hip-hop into Talib Kweli/Mos Def/Hi-Tek’s rear-view staring at the genre. I also make the rules here, so, there’s that. To be honest, I kinda feel like the Kurtis Blow album sounded a bit better than Black Star. Is that crazy to say? I mean, “MD&TKaBS” is probably deservedly on every list of the top 20-50-100 albums of hip-hop that anyone would ever make. I still get chills when I hear Talib’s opening rap on “Definition” (a single that’s probably on any list of the top 10-20 songs of hip-hop?), but that song also exposes the weakness here for me: my system just doesn’t handle bassy hip-hop very well.

“Definition” has a real boom to it, it sounds like a sound system is driving down the street dropping that reggae groove as it goes by, but I can’t get that on my speakers. Some of it is probably placement. I’m using stand speakers as bookshelf speakers, and there’s not enough space around the speaker to let those soundwaves do what the speakers are designed to do. But I’m skeptical that they could handle the bass anyway, they’re all science-fictiony and everything, but I just don’t know how you process that wide bottom without a woofer of some sort. A lot of my hip-hop records (and reggae for that matter) just don’t have the same full range that I get in my car or living room as a result. “Kurtis Blow” doesn’t dip into those ranges, and it’s also a record I’m not too familiar with. The rapping is pretty stereotypical early 80s/late 70s coupling, and it’s hard to tell where the original music is since you’ve heard this album’s music sampled over and over again for 35 years — there’s probably not a single sample in this blend of funky disco, which made it more fun for me to dance around to. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to “Kurtis Blow,” just dismissing it as the album that has “The Breaks,” but it’s actually a blast. Not all tracks land … but then you can say the same about Black Star as well!

Origin Stories: I’m pretty sure the Kurtis Blow album came from a thrift store, it’s definitely a record I’ve seen in thrift store/25-cent bins for years and years. My copy still has the shrink, and is in perfect condition (maybe this was the first time it was ever listened to?). I can’t say the same about the Black Star LP. I’m the only owner on that one, but I’ve listened to it a bunch. Even worse, the labels still have some stickers I put on them when I was taking DJ lessons — no scratches or anything, but they’ve just had a lot of love. Probably still worth 50x more than the Kurtis Blow…

Black Star Discogs Link
Vinyl: VG+
Cover: NM-

Kurtis Blow Discogs Link
Vinyl: NM-
Cover: NM



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