Forget Tru3 Magic – Black Dante Is M-O-S D-E-eFinitely Still Nice.

10 Jan

mos-def-1

First off, I’d like to admit something. I should’ve done this months ago, but I didn’t have the cajones to do it.

Mos Def should’ve replaced one of the inclusions I listed in the Lowered Expectations: Hip-Hop’s Five Most Disappointing Emcees blog series on HipHopDX’s Speech Is My Hammer. I couldn’t follow through with it because even though the Mase, Diddy (then Puff Daddy), and other commercially-viable emcees were the ones who reeled me in to rap, Mos’ Black On Both Sides literally defined what hip-hop could be to a high school Ketchums. In my humble opinion, literally every song, from beginning to end, is a debateable – if not an undeniable – classic. When I went on an overseas trip with some classmates of mine and felt overwhelmed, I put on my headphones and bumped “Habitat” until I felt better. When I was at the airport in New York City (my first time being there), the first segment of “Brooklyn” played in my head. His powerful lyrics and passionate, charming flow – along with beats from the likes of Hi-Tek, 88-Keys (whattup?!) and more – made him a candidate for one of the best ever. Shit, the title of this here web site is named after his quote on the aptly-titled “Hip Hop”:

Speech Is My Hammer, bang the world into shape and let it fall! IUGH!

But honestly, all of these reasons should be the reason that he should’ve made the list. With Black On Both Sides and his contribution to the Black Star album with Talib Kweli, he’s dropped two of most incredible pieces of art that hip-hop has to offer.

But afterwards, the fall-off began. Nearly all of Mos Def’s naysayers haven’t ever doubted his talent, because that’s virtually impossible. Peoples’ problem with him is that he’s doing in the picture above: sitting back, and enjoying the stacks (and accolades) he’s making in Hollywood. But I can’t blame him: Hollywood and Broadway treat people a little better than hip-hop does. His sophomore album The New Danger was slammed for the way that Mos teetered in rock territory instead of sticking to his successful hip-hop aesthetic, but you could still hear his talents, and his passion, throughout the disc. (Personally, I downloaded it, loved it, and copped it, but didn’t listen to it much after that) But he got a few feature roles on the silver screen and on the Broadway stage, a modeling gig or two, and like ranch, he dipped: better for his wallet and, debateably, his legacy. But things got even worse when dropped Tru3 Magic, an album that was a piece of shit not because of how bad it was, but because of how lazy it felt. No longer was it just a matter of him going in a different direction for creativity purposes; rumors swirled that Mos recorded this album strictly to fulfill his contractual obligation with Geffen Records, and that’s how it sounded. It’s like he went to class just enough times to not have points taken off for absences, and he did his homework but failed all the tests. And I’m sure that a divorce and babymamadrama wasn’t a good look for him, either.

But since then, Black Dante has performed, released or leaked several songs from his upcoming album, The Ecstatic. Check under the cut for stream/download links, and my opinion on them.

mos-def-fans-500

“Life In Marvelous Times”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This is the first single that he actually leaked from The Ecstatic.  The beat isn’t terrible, but it still leaves a bit to be desired. But Mos really goes in with the stream-of-consciousness flow:

Some riders don’t know what they’re ridin’ for/hands on the wheel, and they mind is gone/wherever you ride, whatever your lane/this road called life is a beautiful thing/and we are alive in amazing times/delicate hearts, diabolical minds

And the imagery is intense, too. “The windows on the ave look like sad eyes/that fix a sharp gaze on you when you pass by/and if you dare to stare, you can see ’em cry” reminds me of his quote from “Respiration,” when he says, “The full moon rose high, on the crown of the metropolis, shinin’, like ‘who on top of this!'” On songs like this, even though the beat isn’t a Hi-Tek or 88-Keys classic, you can still hear the passion in Mos’ delivery – and when the passion is there, the rest tends to fall into line.

“Twilight Speedball” (Live) (prod. Chad Hugo)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This is more like it.  While it’s a bit more difficult to make out every word Mos is saying because of the quality of the audio, this still sounds damn good:  the Neptunes’ Chad Hugo gives him a thumper of a beat, and Mos’ flow fits it like a glove. 

“Glow”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
As far as I understand, this is an unreleased track from the vaults, not a song that we should expect to see on the album. But he still effortlessly rides the mellow beat from R. Thentic, escalating from carefree braggadocio to inspiring rhymes about speaking up for the underrepresented. Another great song, would be a quality album cut if he were to keep it.  

“Brooklyn (Go Hard) (Freestyle)” (Life)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This is the song that has me the most excited. Mos snaps on the beat that Jay-Z used for the Notorious soundtrack,  utilizing the fiery, rapid-fire flow that he’s known to enlist every once in a while. I won’t even quote shit from this: you just have to listen for yourself.

“Casa Forte” (Live)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This is a funky little groove that samples Banda Back Rio’s “Casa Forte.” Not much to say, here. The beat pretty much carries this, but Mos doesn’t mess it up – and that’s more than I could say about certain songs from Tru3 Magic.

Mos has always been talented, but now, it looks like he’s excited about hip-hop again. And he wants us to know it: he’s doing shows, and in the “Brooklyn (Go Hard)” freestyle, he spits the rhyme a second time as an acapella just to let people know what time it is. This situation is actually reminding me of my Evolution of Andre 3000 blog a while back. They take their hiatus and whatnot, but as soon as they come back, they put shit on smash like they never left.

Links: via 2DopeBoyz, Blind I For The Kids, OkayPlayer, etc.

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4 Responses to “Forget Tru3 Magic – Black Dante Is M-O-S D-E-eFinitely Still Nice.”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why? (1-12-08) « Speech Is My Hammer… - January 12, 2009

    […] Why does Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides literally get better every time I listen to it? (Related: My Take On Mos’ New Material) […]

  2. Mos Def & DJ Deckstream, “Life Is Good” « Speech Is My Hammer… - February 14, 2009

    […] I would’ve been much better. I agree with Che, in that this song is better than any of the songs leaked from Mos’ upcoming The Ecstatic album. This song is….just fucking listen. Now. This is […]

  3. Mos Def Is Rising Down. « Speech Is My Hammer… - March 23, 2009

    […] be making leading up to The Ecstatic, they’re coming in handy. Anyway, remember the post I had where I gave a rundown of all the new Mos Def offerings leading up to the new album? Well I forgot […]

  4. Ketchums’ Most Anticipated Albums Of ‘09 « Speech Is My Hammer… - March 25, 2009

    […] back on the scene with his verse on The Roots’ “Rising Down,” he showed that he hadn’t lost a step. With The Ecstatic lined up for a June 9street date – which, along with being the day before my […]

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