For Heads, there may not be a more-missed entity in Hip-Hop retail than Fat Beats. Established in New York City in 1994, the former brick-and-mortar outlet for tapes, CDs, LPs, and more now only exists as an online retailer, but its legacy remains vivid, thanks in part to live performances that often took place within Fat Beats’ handful of locations around the world. In 1996, a Los Angeles branch was opened and with it was born a West Coast hub for Hip-Hop culture’s most ardent supporters in an era when hitting a store was the best (and sometimes only) way to get put up on new music. In celebration of its first birthday, Fat Beats L.A. threw itself an anniversary party that now, in retrospect, signified a truly important moment in Hip-Hop history in the form of an early performance from Mos Def and Talib Kweli.
It would be another year before Mos and Talib released their debut album as Black Star, but in this footage it’s evident the groundwork was beginning to fully form in ’97. At the time, Mos Def was known best for his single “Universal Magnetic,” which appeared on Rawkus Records’ compilation album Soundbombing. Talib Kweli had appeared on some records with Cincinnati Hip-Hop group Mood and his longtime collaborator Hi-Tek (as a young Reflection Eternal on “Fortified Live,” which featured Mos), making him as underground as one could be. In the nearly 15-minute set, that sweet spot of an era which existed between the traditional Hip-Hop market and the forthcoming digital revolution is crystallized, but there remains a special element of a live, intimate performance that still exists today. Mos Def and Talib Kweli absolutely rocked the stage, and may very well have gone home that evening with the creative energy that would manifest itself into a classic one year later.
Major thanks to Fat Beats’ own (and purveyor of Hip-Hop history) DJ Eclipse for uploading/sending this.