Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I like to be in America...

If I said to you, "It's
Aunt Mirta's birthday!", would you care? Probably not. What about Cousin Anita? Thought so. Today marks Rita Moreno's 76th birthday, which is kind of astounding. Not to sound rude, but I had no idea she was so old! She was a welcome addition to the camper-van of celebrities that appeared in Ugly Betty last year (that's where Aunt Mirta comes from). West Side Story is obviously Moreno's masterpiece, showcasing her warmth, her strength of characterisation and her singing talent. Yep, she was dubbed on "A Boy Like That" (my favourite from the film's soundtrack, it's underrated, no?) but that voice you hear on "America" is pure Rita. Soeaking of that country, there's another famous birthday today (Mos Def) who manages to encapsulate the U.S.A. in a piece of art.

I don't believe I've seen any of his films, but I have to give the man a respectful mention because of one piece of music. An album that is so distinctive, so evocative, and so much fun. Filled with heart, vinegar and beats. One that defined a culture. What you talking 'bout, Catherine? Well, I'm talking about "Black Star", the 1998 collaboration album between Mos Def and Talib Kweli.

It's such a strong album, furious and positive and playful all at once. Kweli and Def have distinctive rapping styles, but they work well together. It'd be a stretch to say it's my favourite hip hop album, but it's probably my most important, the formative work in my collection. C'mon,

One two three
Mos Def and Talib Kweli
We came to rock it on to the tip-top
Best alliance in hip-hop, wyahhhhh
I said one two three
It's kind of dangerous to be a emcee
They shot Tupac and Biggie
Too much violence in hip-hop, wyahhhhh.

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