I can remember the first time I stumbled upon Black Star, featuring one brilliant New York MC and his partner in words, Talib Kweli, after my first boyfriend, a skateboarder with a predilection for blasting underground hip hop and 80s dirty rhymers and beat pioneers, thrust a mixtape at me and told me not to ask any questions. But after popping it in my stereo, all I had was questions.
The tracks therein that little mixtape (which I still have somewhere) stunned me straight out of my dirty cons with the spittage of a one Dante Terrell Smith, better known moniker, Mos Def: “Yo, from the first to the last of it, delivery is passionate./The whole and not the half of it, vocab and not the math of it…” And then, of course, there was Talib with his spatter about Sade and being a visonary.
That was “Definition”…and here we are, all the way at me, completely ecstatic. Or is that Mos Def?
It’s both of us thanks to Mos Def’s fourth solo studio go round, The Ecstatic, which dropped today in record shops on Downtown Records. And it couldn’t be any more inspiring than that day back in 1998 when I first heard Black Star. And while “Mr. N*gga” will forever be my all-time favorite Mos Def bit, some of the tracks on The Ecstatic have left me jaw agape…and welp, ecstatic.
The album features dueling production from the brilliant Madlib and the late J. Dilla, as well as guesters from his longtime collaborator Talib Kweli and some remarkable Slick Rick. Much of the lyrical elements are entirely inspired–looking back at the history of his career and his previous work with Kweli. And after his third go round, True Magic, was anything but, fans were really hoping for a winner here, and quite frankly, should feel “ecstatic” at the thought Def has delivered where fans have feared falter.
There are, too, instrumental elements that will take you on quite the trip–traditional Indian sound that would make any Bollywood score director fall to knees and beg for a part of it in their reel, afrobeat, funk, jazz, and beyond. Yet, it sounds as if Mos Def didn’t leave three square blocks in Brooklyn to make this…just as it should be, really. Stand out track is his first single, “Quiet Dog Bite Hard”, which features a sample of the brilliant father of afrobeat, Fela Kuti, and Mos Def flexing his percussion chops on some timpani.
What’s more, Mos Def did an absolute bang up brilliant job last night on Letterman, tackling the aforementioned timpani along with spitting to much applause.
Hot on the heels of humble blogger gobbling up everything available on the making of The Ecstatic, I stumbled upon one of the most remarkable things in awhile: Mos Def dissecting his favorite hip hop artist, MF Doom, now just Doom, and his brilliant lyrics.
Not only is it funny as hell, its pretty remarkable to see one excellent artist dig into one of their inspirations; and not just in the standard way with lines like “um, “insert typical artist here” is such an influence.”
Plus, he sets the stage for a battle: Doom v. Lil’ Wayne. Def puts his coin on Doom. Second that, with the little money I have, too.
With that being said, check out The Ecstatic…now. And to get you inspired, here’s a bit of a Mos Def retrospective.
[Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) – Definition.]
[Mos Def (feat. Q Tip) – Mr. N*gga.]
[Mos Def as Chuck Berry – No Particular Place to Go (for Cadillac Records film).]
[Mos Def – Quiet Dog Bite Hard.]*
*off the just released The Ecstatic