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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mos Def's Black On Both Sides (An Old Review)

This was originally posted September 13th, 2008 on Musthear.com, a great site that appears to be down...  Thank you John Ballon for everything!

Artist: MOS DEF
Title: BLACK ON BOTH SIDES
Date: 1999
Release: Rawkus 50141

Mos Def will make you believe in hiphop again. What's that? You don't listen to that crap? This album is reason to reevaluate that stance. If you're one of those that "Used to Love H.E.R.," check out Mos' debut and fall in love all over again. Although the popular first single from the album ("Ms. Fat Booty") may seem like standard fare, the opener "Fear Not of Man" is a tribute/update of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti's "Fear Not For Man"--a bold step away from the strict American/Jamaican musical orthodoxy of Hiphop. This sets the tone for the album; in the spirit of Fela he deals with real issues such as environmentalism ("New World Water"), under-education and other social/economic inequities ("Mathematics"), and racism ("Mr. Nigga.") Did I forget to mention that Mos Def has actual musicians (not merely samples) on several of the tracks? Weldon Irvine Jr. (Jazz-Funk keyboardist extraordinaire sampled by A Tribe Called Quest for "Award Tour"), Will I Am (of Black Eyed Peas), Mos Def himself, and others contribute parts on "real" instruments. Mos sings (!)--quite nicely, actually--on several songs, including the second single "Umi says" which contains--read this carefully--NO RAPPING!! All this seems quite revolutionary compared to the million selling Puff Daddy/Master P/Missy & Timbaland/Dr. Dre & Eminem vibe that has apparently taken over hiphop. Maybe the
hiphop underground has found its trojan horse in Mos Def's popularity and appeal to the mainstream. Help hiphop become subversive again, BUY THIS ALBUM!!

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