Review Summary: Despite failing to surpass the landmark Black on Both Sides, kudos to Mos Def for recording the album he's always wanted, and doing a pretty good job too.
Mos Def – The New Danger
Dante “Mos Def” Smith’s 1999 solo debut, Black on Both Sides, quietly experienced praise amidst the releases of the much anticipated The Chronic 2001 and the universally controversial The Slim Shady LP. The meticulously crafted alternative rap album and soon to be modern classic boasted tremendous lyrical inventiveness while avoiding the numerous perks of a chart-topping hip-hop record. Smith’s quest was not for money, but to write the music he wanted to write, straight from his heart. Mos took that desire to a whole new level and flirted with disaster in his second solo album, The New Danger. The product was incredibly inconsistent, and his lyricism experienced a small drop off, but improved samples and beats as well as a diverse group of songs made this album a success.
The album begins on a poor note, but I urge you to keep listening and ride it out. Mos Def has always expressed a longing to sing in his music, and with the help of the album’s house band, Black Jack Johnson (consisting of members of the bands Living Colour, Bad Brains, and P-Funk), his wish is fulfilled. Unfortunately, he is a second-rate vocalist, and most of his singing ends up boring the listener, if not annoying them (“Modern Marvel” is really the only soft track that works). The rest of the band proves to be a strong addition to his works, and they start the album off with a set of heavy, guitar driven songs. I disliked this through the first couple of tracks, albeit they were very short and could even be considered filler, but Mos struck gold with “Ghetto Rock”, which later went on to receive a Grammy nomination for best urban/alternative performance. Once again, the lyrics here are not as impressive as they were on his previous effort, but this track is one of the few exceptions. I also love the chorus; it’s catchy, but not enough to become an overplayed radio anthem. It speaks of his roots as the king of Brooklyn, New York. Nothing deep, but his lyrical flow fits in perfectly with the rhythm set by the guitar.
A strong blues influence is present in two of the album’s weakest tracks, “Blue Black Jack” and “Bedstuy Parade and Funeral March”. Moments like these are when Mos Def’s creativity results in a swing and a miss. Both songs are dull and drag on far too long, and many listeners may once again feel like dropping the album right there.
“Sex, Love, and Money” is perhaps the best song on the album, blending a shady flute melody with some impressive percussion, all while Mos spits lyrics depicting the girl of his dreams (similar to “Ms. Fat Booty”). Many of the best tracks here are simply a blast to listen to, and I often stop listening for the constituent parts of the songs and just enjoy the music.
Controversy arose during the immediate release of this cd due to the 94 second “The Rape Over”. This take on Jay-Z’s “Takeover”, also featuring a sample of The Doors “Five to One”, attacks the people and companies running the rap world.
old white men is runnin this rap ***
Corporate forces runnin this rap ***
some tall Israeli is runnin this rap ***
We poke out our asses for a chance to cash in
Cocaine, is runnin this rap ***
'Dro, 'yac and E-pills is runnin this rap ***”
The “some tall Israeli is runnin this rap ****” line was directed at former Def Jam head Lyor Cohen, and led to the song’s removal from the second pressing of the cd. The entire song was written out of Mos’ anger at the industry, which originally rejected his proposal to use Black Jack Johnson in the recording.
It is incredibly difficult to follow up any masterpiece with another of the same caliber, and even harder to do so with just one’s second album. This is no sophomore slump, but with a five-year period in between this and Black on Both Sides, it could have been much better, mainly in the consistency category. I still strongly recommend this to fans of Mos Def, to compare and contrast it with his debut. Just let it grow on you, and appreciate the time Mos spent creating His album, instead of pulling a 50 Cent and entertaining fans solely for the money.
Great house band and guest appearances
Diversity (rock, blues, etc.)
Many solid tracks
Lyrics worse than in his debut
Plagued by inconsistency
Some may not like Mos occasionally playing second-fiddle to the instruments
The Rape Over
Sex, Love & Money