Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mighty Mos

Mos Def's solo debut album "Black on Both Sides" is about 10 years old now, and the farther away he gets from it, the less of a blessing and more of a curse it appears to be. What followed was an admirable though terrible attempt at raprock ("New Danger") and a big label stillborn ("True Magic") which was probably as close to an outright disaster as a guy like Mos Def can get.

This sad history makes the awesomeness of "The Ecstatic" a bit unexpected, as it seemed that Mos would never get out of the long shadow he cast a decade ago. The more I think about it, though, the more it becomes clear that he really needed a failure like "True Magic" to free him from the expectations of what a Mos Def album should sound like, because "The Ecstatic" is like nothing you've heard from him before. The beats, produced mainly by Madlib and his cousin Oh No, are bizarre Indian-soul mashups, less whole songs than vignettes, and Mos is likewise loose and uninhibited. The shift into free association madness suits him well, as Mos Def has never been as much a rapper as a vocal performer, able to sing, speak, and shout as the mood demands. And though some will no doubt reject the weirdness and Stones Throwification, still wishing for the long gone Rawkus days, to me it just feels good to use "brave" and "Mos Def" in the same sentence again.