Release Date: 10.12.99
Record label: Rawkus
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.
Rejoice and settle your pulse at the same time. The brightest star in hip-hop's present as well it's most promising hope for it's future is back. We've gotten glimpses of the pure genius of Mos Def in short bursts as his career has progressed. From appearances on De La Soul's Stakes Is High to A Tribe Called Quest's final passing note, The Love Theory to the latest Roots release of Things Fall Apart as well as teaming up with Talib Qweli and DJ Hi-Tek on the contemporary hip-hop classic of Blackstar, these morsels of the essence of urban music haven't been enough to satiate the seekers of beats of a different plane. This brings us to the release of Mos Def's first solo release titled Black on Both Sides.
This release by one of Brooklyn's finest establishes his place in the higher echelon through an album better described as a journey through spirituality, pride of self and heritage, a yearn for a unified people and offering a new direction on life, rather than just another musical release. Mos Def emphasizes his commitment to creating a musical experience by not only inviting guest MC's but utilizing the hauntingly-beautiful vocal talents of Vinia Mojica and jazz expertise of Weldon Irvine as well as contributing his Renaissance-Man talents on assorted percussion instruments, bass and coordinating efforts on strings arrangements with Irvine. This culminates into an experience which travels through ambient strings and nuances, classic hip-hop style and even into heavy-1-3-beat rhymes on a much darker feel. The icing of this resulting set of original samples is the lyrical insight possessed by Mos Def which paints the true beauty of the album.
The album begins with a track by the title "Fear Not of Man" offering a mix of percussion lending to the insightful message Mos Def delivers in prose to open a window into how his soul operates according to his spirituality. Not to take away from Talib by any measure, but this album allows Mos Def to express continual, whole, flowing thoughts which haven't been paralleled since the story-like lyrics of early Slick Rick. An excellent example of this is the lyrical tapestry mended by Mos on shards of his own life on the track "Love." We see his versatility in a travel back to classic beats in his team effort with Busta Rhymes on "Do it Now." Two tracks later ("Umi Says"), the listener steps off the sidewalk of Brooklyn into a dark, smoky club where a lyrical poet by the name of Mos Def shares his mission for a view of a new future as well as the mental struggles along the way. "Mr. Nigga" offers a wake-up call in the form of accounts of a life he's seen which is spiraling downward unless we all change our attitudes.
One can take away the samples or even the punk band at the end of 'Rock N' Roll," but you're still left with savvy lyrics confronting issues most prefer to stray away from. One can take away the lyrics and you are still left with a well-orchestrated musical experience. As A Tribe Called Quest so deftly defines on Midnight Marauders, MC stands for Master of Ceremonies, so take your seat and pay attention as Mos Def delivers his message as a true MC to this gathering we all call life. 13-Nov-1999 1:00 PM