New York's rapper Mos Def (Dante Smith)
reacted to gangsta-rap by bringing back the philosophy of the Native Tongues posse.
Black Star (1998) was a collaboration with rapper Talib Kweli produced by dj Hi-Tek and other young producers,
and Black on Both Sides (Rawkus, 1999) highlighted his
serious-minded approach to rap music and his unified
take on rock, soul, dub and funk.
Hence the slim blend of dub bass, syncopated drumming and jazzy organ of
Fear Not Of Man.
Hence the funky horn fanfare of the tragic self-reflection Hip Hop.
Hence the guitar hiccups of Do It Now,
the jazzy African chant Umi Says,
the pan-ethnic shuffle Mr Nigga,
His propensity for smooth and calm structures accounts for the
lazy Ms Fat Booty, decorated with a hypnotic loop of female vocals,
the mellow Speed Law,
the easy-listening melody of Climb (reminiscent of Diana Ross' Where Are You Going To),
the oneiric Rock 'n' Roll, with the most viscous rhythm.
He betrays a bit of impatience in New World Water and
Know That, and especially in the
noir oppressive cinematic Brooklyn,
but not enough to alter his fundamental stance of
He also formed the black rock supergroup Black Jack Johnson with
Parliament's keyboardist Bernie Worrell, Bad Brains' guitarist Dr Know,
Living Colour's drummer Will Calhoun and Living colour's bassist Doug Wimbish.
The New Danger (2004) was an inferior solo album that continued his
probe of funk-rock-soul-rap fusion.
The ambitious The Ecstatic (Downtown, 2009) was produced by
J Dilla, Madlib, Chad Hugo,
Oh No, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Mr Flash.
A creative and exhilaring tour de force, the 16-song collection displays
a cohesive approach to social analysis,
metaphorically amplified in the
whirling pan-ethnic shuffles of
with a peak of orchestral pathos in Life In Marvelous Times.
The aggressive arrangements of
the trombone-dynamited Twilight Speedball
make up for any rapping inadequacy.
The producers pick a fantastic polyrhythm and Mos Def rides it with
spectacular lightness in Quiet Dog Bite Hard
(that quotes Rapper's Delight).
Mos Def's soft and mature touch permeates the
almost funereal Auditorium and the old-fashioned funk-soul of
History, but this time the emotional core lies in the other ego.
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