Beneath The Surface: Speed Walton
“Beneath The Surface” is UGHH’s column designed to unearth the underground’s deepest and brightest...
First forming in 1997, Black Star is a duo composed of members Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli. While Black Star has only released one studio album (1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star) to date, their influence as a group remains impactful to hip-hop—focusing on modern-day trials and tribulations navigating through America as two men of color. Their debut deviated from the cookie-cutter themes dominating mainstream rap at the heart of the “Shiny Suit Era.” Instead, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star focused on a celebration and intelligent examination of Black culture—with "Thieves in the Night" inspired by author Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eyes, and "Brown-Skinned Lady" challenging Western ideals of beauty. Their two singles “Definition” and “Respiration” featuring Common, remain hip-hop classics, produced by none other than Hi-Tek. Following their first release, the members of Black Star went on to pursue their own solo careers. They have remained close collaborators for upwards of two decades, with speculation consistently surrounding a reunion project. In 2006, Mos Def and Talib Kweli appeared in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, even creating a new song for the soundtrack, "Born & Raised." In 2011, Black Star reunited to perform new material on the Colbert Report, with their Madlib-produced track "Fix Up" being leaked prior to its official release. The single was accompanied by another release, "You Already Knew," only furthering the desire for a Black Star sophomore album.
While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint's third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction. For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM's diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track "Book of Daniel," during which he accused DOOM of selling out. With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.