Sunday, 10 July 2011

#445 - "Black On Both Sides" - Mos Def

Released On:  Rawkus Records, 1999

Contrary to what you might imagine, rapper-musician-actor-political activist Mos Def only has one great album to his name (although 2009's The Ecstatic is good too, in its own way).  Coming off the stellar pairing of himself and Talib Kwali, though, how could his debut be anything but a bona fide hip hop classic?  Lyrically it was quite different from the vast majority of mainstream rap then and now; socially conscious hip hop doesn't chart all that often but when it does it's worth it.  Musically its basis is in old-school hip-hop (two songs sample Eric B and Rakim) and tempered sampling with live instrumentation ( is playing the electric Fender Rhodes on "Umi Says", before he abandoned musicianship for money and political posturing). Front and center is Mos Def's intricate flow and clever wordplay, proving that the man has always had the skills even if he made questionable choices on later albums.  Mos Def would always get eclectic, which would fail as often as it would succeed, but his most successfully eclectic moment is one of the highlights here, "Rock And Roll", in which he embraces hardcore punk and discusses White America's continual appropriation of black music as their own ("Elvis Presley ain't got no soul / Chuck Berry is rock and roll").  It's a brilliant juxtaposition and contains a diss of Limp Bizkit; in retrospect I was sold from the start.  One of the most adventurous hip hop albums of the 90s.

Where You'd Know It From:  Mos Def has of course been in such films as "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" and "Be Kind Rewind".  Soon he'll even be on Dexter (how fun is that?!).  The album itself was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts and "Ms. Fat Booty" is a classic track from the 90s.

Track Listing:
1.  Fear Not Of Man (4:28)
2.  Hip Hop (3:16)
3.  Love (4:23)
4.  Ms. Fat Booty (3:43)
5.  Speed Law (4:16)
6.  Do It Now (Ft. Busta Rhymes) (3:49)
7.  Got (3:27)
8.  Umi Says (5:10)
9.  New World Water (3:11)
10.  Rock And Roll (5:02)
11.  Know That (Ft. Talib Kwali) (4:03)
12.  Climb (Ft. Vinia Mojica) (4:02)
13.  Brooklyn (5:09)
14.  Habitat (4:39)
15.  Mr. Nigga (Ft. Q-Tip) (5:12)
16.  Mathematics (4:06)
17.  May-December (3:29)

("Ms. Fat Booty")

("Rock And Roll")

( "Brooklyn")

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