Black Star with their podcast and Kanye West with his Stem Player are among the acts rolling out albums in new unprecedented ways. But do their experiments point toward hip-hop’s future?
In the late ‘90s, Brooklyn rappers Yasiin Bey (then known as Mos Def) and Talib Kweli united as a duo before either had released a solo album. The result, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, launched successful solo careers for both artists, a classic of the conscious rap resurgence that helped make Rawkus Records one of the era’s most important labels.
Over the next couple decades, a long-promised second Black Star album felt like an urban legend. But in 2021 the duo united with one of their most famous friends and fans — comedian Dave Chappelle — to launch a new podcast, The Midnight Miracle. In April the following year, Black Star announced that their sophomore album No Fear of Time, produced entirely by legendary beat maker Madlib, would be released exclusively via Luminary, the podcast network that also happens to produce The Midnight Miracle. In a year that has already seen Kanye West releasing his Donda 2 album exclusively on his own Stem Player device, and Dr. Dre releasing an EP that initially could only be heard while playing a Grand Theft Auto game, change is in the air as rappers continue to use alternative means of distributing their music beyond the music streaming platforms commonly used.