Rappers Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) give a lyrical shout-out to Palestine

Sama’an Ashrawi, the producer of Texas Student TV’s Longhorn Hip Hop tv show, and a member of rapper/professor Bun B’s loyal band of brothers, the Trill Gladiators, who previously interviewed Lupe Fiasco, sent me this video with the following note:

This past weekend I had the chance to catch Black Star’s concert in Los Angeles, during which they took a stand for solidarity with the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine.

Black Star is a legendary Hip Hop duo comprised of members: Talib Kweli and Mos Def (who now goes by “Yasiin Bey,” and is also known for starring roles in films like 16 Blocks, Be Kind Rewind, Cadillac Records, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), two of Hip Hop’s most revered MCs.

To a nearly sold-out Club Nokia, in the middle of their song, “RE: DEFinition,” Black Star held their fists high and declared, “Let’s get free just like the Palestinians!”

After the show, I had a chance to talk with Yasiin Bey about it, as you can see on the video.

Yasiin’s (who was known as “Mos Def” when the song was first released) original lyrics from this portion of the song are, “My raps will hold a gat to your back like Palestinians,” and first appeared on Black Star’s eponymous debut album in 1998. 

Both Kweli and Bey have referenced Palestine on several other occasions: 

  • On “Definition,” Bey raps, “Me and Kweli close like Bethlehem and Nazareth.” 
  • On “Gun Music,” Kweli raps, “Israelis got tanks, Palestinians got rocks”
  • On “What’s Beef,” they both rap, “Beef is Iraq, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip”
  • On “War,” Bey raps, “Palestine, Kosovo, Kashmir/No different than the avenues right here.”

A tip of the hat to Talib Kweli for allowing me to be part of that evening’s festivities. And a thank you to Ant Marhsall, co-founder of the Lyricist Lounge. The Black Star show was part of a celebration of the Lyricist Lounge’s 20th anniversary. None of this would have happened without him.

Sama’an Ashrawi on Twitter: @SamaanAshrawi

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.