Skip to main content

65. Mos Def - The New Danger (2004)

Sometimes (more often than I'd like, actually) I walk out of the record store with something I never expected to purchase. Such was the case a month or so ago when I went into the Electric Fetus and walked out with Mos Def's latest effort The New Danger.

A couple of nights before I'd seen Mos Def perform his new song Close Edge on the Chapelle Show. His performance was simple but unconventional. As Dave drove, Mos sat in the passenger seat and rapped, seeming for all the world like he was making it up on the spot. I was mesmerized.

Even so, I hadn't even thought about seeking out the album until someone came into the Fetus and asked about it. Anyone publicly expressing interest in an artist is always fascinating to me, and I eavesdropped as I heard the clerk say, "Yeah, you want to listen to it first? It's pretty weird." And that sold me.

Of course there's always bad weird and good weird. Luckily, this record falls into the latter category. It's a big old stylistic mess: overlong, sporadically brilliant and always engaging. What other rap album is going to give you lovingly crooned faux-reggae (The Boogie Man Song, The Beggar), straight-up blues (Blue Black Jack), rap-rock (Freaky Black Greetings,War, Zimzallabim), and soul (The Panties)?

The rap-rock tracks, recorded with the band Black Jack Johnson are likely to be the biggest head-scratchers to hip-hop fans who seek this out. I think they're stand-outs though, and the band recalls Rage Against The Machine, but with a better rapper/vocalist. But I must admit, hearing Mos repeatedly call out to "Jack Johnson!" brings up unpleasant images of laconic acoustic guitar players.

The raps are the best part of the album, of course. Sunshine comes in at track #9 and is the disc's first transcendent moment. Using a Hair sample, Mos claims he's "the shot clock / way above the game" and that his "style's fresh / Like I'm a day old." It's hard to argue when he flows...not angry but intense, not your typical money - guns - girls rapper but still hip-hop, a movie star but still completely authentic. Close Edge's dizzying chorus "Don't touch me 'cause I'm close to the steets, to the beats, the bitches, the niggas, the women, the children, the workers, the killers, the addicts, the dealers, the quiet, the livest, the realest...I'm like J.Brown gettin' involved" speaks for itself.

Modern Marvel is perhaps the most interesting song. It's an epic tribute to Marvin Gaye that uses a subtle-to-obvious What's Going On sample. Mos breaks off a rap that wonders how Marvin would react to our modern world, when socially-conscious masterpieces like Mercy Mercy Me, Inner City Blues, and What's Going On spoke of the exact same problems in 1971. It's an unconventional, if sobering and effective, way to put things in perspective.

At 75 minutes, I could trot out the old rap album complaint: "It's too long and overindulgent; why couldn't he have done a bit more self-editing?" That's valid, but two things set this record apart from the other albums that have to suffer this criticism. One is that Mos Def is just so damn cool (think about it... he's got a rap career, AND he's been in movies with Robert DeNiro, Eddie Murphy, Marky Mark, Ed Norton, Halle Berry, and Billy Bob Thornton and, yes, Kevin Bacon...not even Ice Cube has worked with that caliber of talent), and the stylistic changes are at least daring and different. We don't have the usual 2/4 of monotonous filler and skits that sink so many rap albums.

Is it going to be a classic? Probably not. But for a unexpected purchase, it ain't bad.

Grade: B-
Fave Song: Close Edge

Comments

tom said…
ohh goodness, I've once had that experience, purchased something which never been expected before. but it became bad luck to me because it did not satisfy me. I was disappointed and regret purchased that thing. now I have to make sure that I really like or know it before I decide to purchase.
Zane said…
I'm sure that everyone has experienced anything like that before, especially if you are one of those people who like to go shopping around. Maybe there will be good and bad thing. It's all up to you...!
Graham R said…
I am glad to hear you realize that your unexpected purchase wasn't too bad. When we've already bought unexpected purchase, we should use it. Is it just because we don't want it and already bought it then we're going to put that stuff away. Uh, it's too bad then we're just wasting money.

I agree with @Tom that he said: "now I have to make sure that I really like or know it before I decide to purchase."

It is better to choose a proper thing for ourselves than get unexpected purchase.
Anthony said…
Yeah, that’s right! I often buy things that I do not need and the results, I'm just wasting my money for stuff that I do not use until now. But from this mistake now I am more thinking of buying before I buy it. Thanks for sharing this information.

Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on