Mos Def. Yasiin Bey. Black Dante. The Boogeyman. A hip-hop legend in his own right, with some of the best names in hip-hop ever (might I add). A vet in the game who made conscious rap every bit as banging as other modes of the genre. Despite this he has been fairly quiet in the six years since his last album, 2009’s The Ecstatic, an effort which represented his best in a very long time.
The Brooklyn MC is one of my favourites ever but even I can admit that he has a topsy-turvy body of work- something I’ve constantly argued about with others (and with myself…in my sleep). Mos undoubtedly has two certified classics in his catalogue – 1998’s immense Black Star LP with partner-in-crime Talib Kweli, and also his solo debut Black On Both Sides a year later which built on the platform he established on Black Star.
Then we move onto two efforts that have polarized fans. The New Danger, Mos’ second album, was completely different from anything we had heard from him before, incorporating rock and blues influences that displayed his future tendencies to experiment with other genres, but infuriated stans who were in love with his last two projects. I personally liked The New Danger – it was a sudden transition but one which didn’t seem forced or in any way inauthentic (“Blue Black Jack” was my sh*t!”)
But I can’t say the same for his next effort, True Magic, a project which, from start to finish, was pure hot garbage. I can’t say much positive about this album; it seemed rushed, lacking any true magic (ironically) from Mos and continues to deserve a slam dunk into the recycle bin.
But Dante regrouped and returned in 2009 with The Ecstatic, a super dope album that contained some of the best production he has ever rapped/sang over, and captured a great balance between experimentation and giving his day one fans what they wanted.
Fast forward to 2015 and Mos has been relatively lowkey up until very recently. In the space of a month the enigmatic MC has demonstrated his comedic side by doing his first stand-up comedy show, stated he could beat any rapper in a battle, a stance he swiftly changed after Lupe Fiasco accepted his challenge, and has been dropping gems of music that have watered the mouths of his fans.
First was “Basquiat Ghostwriter“, a chaotic yet tender ode to revered artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and a call to appreciate art, peace and graffiti. Then this week came “Sensei On the Block” which took me back to the Mos Def of old. This is a song that could have easily made Black On Both Sides or The Ecstatic, with a hypnotising steel drum in the background and Def waxing lyrical in maximum comfort. Its probably the best Mos song I’ve heard in a long while and, at this point, I feel the Boogeyman is playing with my heart.
With a lot of attention currently generating around Mos, who can’t even enter the United States right now, he should follow it up with a fifth solo album. He has been absent for too long and, while single song releases are all well and good, the fans need another full body of work from one of the genre’s most unique voices.
Six years is a long time, particularly in hip-hop, where trends come and go and the genre becomes more and more saturated. Mos Def is unique for doing exactly what he wants to do, regardless of the climate in hip-hop at any given time, but there comes a time when one of the OGs in the game needs to come forth and have his say. Especially after an album that was as good as The Ecstatic.
It may be that when Bey decides to drop an album, it will be a banger and it will have been worth the wait but as a dedicated fan, I can’t wait any longer. Plus, a long time after his last project, it would be greatly interesting to see, in album form, where one of Brooklyn’s finest is at at this stage in his career – is he still open to experimentation or is he looking to strip back to the level at which he achieved initial success?
Personally, I’m more of a fan of the early Mos Def; the “Definition”, “Ms. Fat Booty” and “Mathematics” Mos Def, which is why I love “Sensei On The Block” so much, but I’m also partial to the Mos who is willing to push boundaries with his music unapologetically.
Regardless of soundscapes, Mos Def has always been one with a lot to say and another album would certainly constitute a welcome return from his fans. Give the people (especially me!) what they want, Mos!