Mos Def – The New Danger

Mos DefThe New Danger (Geffen)

There’s something in the words “I don’t give a fuck what kind of brand you are / I’m concerned what type of man you are / What your principles and standards are,” that represents more then just a proud man bragging on a track. Instead, Mos Def’s lyrics sound more like a proposal for a new mission statement for thinking man’s hip hop than your standard braggadocio. Which is why we’re so happy by the time those words come, almost entirely through Mos Def’s latest, The New Danger.

For the first half of his second solo album, I had begun to think he took his “Who am I?! Rock n’ roll!” bit from Black on Both Sides a little too seriously. Much of The New Danger ignores the soulful, poetic/prophetic politicism of Mos’ first solo album and instead tries its hand at rap-rock schlock (which, it should be noted, is sooooooooo 2000).

But everything’s not lost, and The New Danger manages to salvage itself with a strong second half, beginning with “Sex, Love, and Money,” a swaggering hip hop anthem replete with fat strings and strip club bounce. Unfortunately, truly great moments like this aren’t as abundant here as they were with the charming Black on Both Sides, leaving Mos’ latest album slightly disappointing. It isn’t as if it’s without its highlights—”Modern Marvel,” which evolves from a soulful admission of weakness into an tribute to Marvin Gaye, one of Mos’ idols, is simply brilliant. But to find the truly great follow-up on The New Danger is to skip tracks constantly—at best Mos only manages to string together three great tracks in a row (“Sex, Love, and Money,” “Sunshine,” “Close Edge”) on an 18-track album.

Unfortunately, after becoming a successful actor and adding more musical projects to his plate, Mos Def seems to have distilled the power of his voice as an MC. Once the voice of a generation hopeful for a hip hop renaissance, Mos seems to have switched sides on us. It’s not as if he’s forgotten his roots, either—he remains vital to his hometown of Brooklyn—but in his attempt to take back rock as a black-born music, he’s focused on endorsing an integrity-less faction of the genre to get his points across. Instead, his point is muffled, because no one can be bothered to listen to “Zimzallabim” or “Freaky Black Greetings.”

Mos Def remains an underappreciated and valuable member of the hip hop community, and The New Danger still represents him well as a whole. It is incredibly difficult to follow an album with the class of Black on Both Sides, and a few mistakes don’t spell the downfall of The New Danger. But Mos Def still has work to do in hip hop, especially after five years out of the game. “I’m Mos-Definite / Not ‘think so’,” he reminds us on “Close Edge”. The music’s more powerful than your words, Mos. And the music seems a little uncertain.

One thought on “Mos Def – The New Danger”

  1. While I agree that the real hard-rock-meets-rap thing is really hard to swallow (or enjoy), if you listen past it, there is something more in it. This doesn’t seem a deviation or a disappointment at all to me. What it seems like is that he stretching himself; that he is trying on, and out, different things, and simply being musical. How can you expect him to stay in a straight line, always resonating with the same emotion(s) as before, when he is not the same person he was before. A different perspective = a different voice, if someone is honestly putting themselves out there, and I think that is what should be expected of him: that he will always be true to himself, even in being different than he was before.

    This album seems to me to be a tribute to music itself, and I find that exploration and expression more appealing than simply hearing more of what we already know he is good at, and capable of.

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