279. Black Star’s ‘Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star’

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The reason this record says “limited edition” in the bottom corner is because this is a bootleg version of the very classic and very perfect debut album from Black Star. The original is nearly impossible to come across on vinyl, and it has never been fully reissued. The label they were on—Rawkus—has basically become a back catalog management label, and unlike Digable Planets, no boutique label has either a) swooped in to reissue the album or b) come up with enough money to do so. 

This is very similar to my vinyl copy of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange in that they are both albums I’d kill to have on vinyl, and the only form they’ve appeared in in that capacity is in bootleg copies my local shop somehow is able to keep an ample stock of (my man Ben got a copy of this a month ago. I scored one yesterday). 

I guess I am wondering about the ethics of bootlegs right now, when a large swath of this album is devoted to the ethics of glorifying street life in hip-hop, and trying to maintain your conscious in a world—late ’90s mainstream rap culture—that demanded that you chase fame and glory regardless of impact on you or whoever.

I mean, Mos and Talib aren’t going to get paid—as they should—off this. Me buying this won’t give Common some money for still his best verse ever (“Respiration”). But I guess this isn’t any worse than downloading this illegally off Sharebeast or whatever.

Anyway: Silver lining. I found a vinyl copy of one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. Even if it’s a bootleg with a low-pixel cover and imperfect clear vinyl, celebrations like what I had in the store yesterday are what make collecting vinyl worth it.  

151. Mos Def’s ‘Black On Both Sides’

City where I bought this album: Montreal

Amount of time it took the record store clerk to find the record—this was a store where they kept the records apart from the sleeves for some reason—after I came to the counter, because he didn’t know where the hip-hop section was because hardly anyone bought hip-hop records at this store: 11 minutes

Time I spent explaining how good this album is to a dude from Belgium later that day: 11 minutes

Times my friend Graham said, “Hey, you know what’s a hip-hop album that is actually good? Black on Both Sides” when we were drunk: Once.

Times this guy at a wedding, who said he “Hated rap music,” told me Black on Both Sides is the first rap album he ever cared about: Once.

Amount of times I said I liked Mos’s second album better than this in a blog post, and realized I was fucking dumb for that about a year later: Once.

Number of the “hottest negros in los Estados Unidos” on this album: Two

The degree to which this is a better solo album than anything Talib Kweli has done as a solo artist: (Incalculable)

How insane it is that this went gold in 2000: Really insane

How seriously this should be considered for best album art ever: Seriously. It’s a 360 shot of his head, including the back cover.

Ass so fat: That you can see it from the front