On this day in Hip Hop history Brooklyn rapper Mos Def released his debut solo LP Black on Both Sides. Coming off of the success of his debut, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, with fellow conscious rap legend and Soulquarian Talib Kweli, this album took the mainstream rap world by storm and was one of the few that kick-started a renaissance of consciousness and Afrocentric themes in mainstream Hip Hop and black music in general.
1999 was the beginning of the Soulquarian Age. It was a time when rap music was faced with a new wave of neo-soul influenced inspiration. Erykah Badu, J Dilla, Common, The Roots, Talib Kweli, and of course Mos Def were all beginning to grab the hearts and minds of the mainstream through their unique groove and soulful brand of Hip Hop. As one of the earlier releases of the Soulquarian collective, Black on Both Sides set the bar for tone and subject matter for all to follow.
Featuring production by 88-Keys, DJ Premier, Ali Shaeed Muhammad, Ayatollah, and Diamond D, it is apparent that this album is no where near short of hits. The true to Hip Hop production allowed the album to keep its authenticity and integrity while still building on the foundation created by the golden era greats. Mos Def’s lyrical ability shown on this album was at the time incomparable. His word play and ventricular were poetic along with his rhetoric and themes. He was a new breed of rapper, reminiscent of a time where MCing was based solely on mastery of the English language.
Commercially, the album was successful. The hype surrounding Black Star‘s debut and the Soulquarian movement allowed for the album to accumulate a lot of buzz. It peaked at #25 on the Billboard 200 chart and claimed the top spot among rap albums. The album was certified platinum in the year of its release and was so far sold 913,000 copies.