SECOND MUSIC NERD MOMENT OF THE DAY: Mos Def feat. Talib Kweli – Know That

Throughout its history, Hip Hop has seen some of the greatest musical duos the world has ever known: Guru and DJ Premier, Big Boi and Andre 3000, Eric B. & Rakim. Mos Def and Talib Kweli can be put into that category too, having been the two franchise players for Rawkus Records in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With the release of the album Black on Both Sides in 1999, Mos Def (these days known as Yasiin Bey) officially established himself as a formidable solo emcee. The debut contained some of the strongest classics in all of Mos’ catalog, like “Umi Says”, “Mista Nigga”, “Mathematics” and of course, the love/lust-lorn summertime-in-Brooklyn spectacle “Ms. Fat Booty”. But it’s his collaboration with Kweli, “Know That”, that really exists as one of Black On Both Side‘s premiere standout tracks. Surrounded with a pounding drum and piano sample that’s as honest as it is dramatic, Mos proceeds to give one of the greatest opening verses in all of Hip Hop history, including the lines:

I was a young boy — who dreamt about being a big man
on small loose leaf sheets I sketched a big plan
Gotta handle on it properly, boost up my economy
Store it up and get my mom some waterfront property
Yesterday was not for me but nowadays it’s hot for me
The streets is watchin me, I watch back, that’s the policy
Movin along my odyssey like blood through the artery
Navigate the treacherous and make it seem effortless…”

While Kweli is nowhere near a slouch either, trading back-and-forth barbs with Mos on the hook and more than holding his own on verse 2. Surely one of the songs that had fans begging for another Black Star album, both “Know That” and Black On Both Sides helped to light the fuse to a rise in popularity of underground Hip Hop and the further fragmentation of the genre  at the turn of the millennium.

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