Since last years outstanding Black Star, huge amounts of heads have been waiting for new shit to drop from the dynamic duo. With Talib Kweli's Reflection Eternal not dropping their album until 2G, we've got Mos Def's debut solo to listen to. Thankfully, you will be more than happy with 'Black on Both Sides,' as it is one of the most well rounded hip-hop albums of the year. While at times Mos mumbles instead of delivering his passionate delivery you've heard before, this does little to take away from the LP's qualities.
Right from the intro, Mos makes sure to speak his mind. 'Fear Not of Men' is initially aimed at those who talk of hip hop being dead or unhealthy etc., by saying, in Mos' own words, that "people talk about hip hop like its some giant living in the hillside, coming down to visit the town's people. We are hip hop, me, you, everybody, we are hip hop." For the other 3 or so minutes of the song, Mos talks on a variety of topics before going out on a soulful tip. The very fact that I've had to condense my opinions on the intro down to just a paragraph shows how much depth 'Black on Both Sides' has.
If you're looking for the typical hip-hop tracks, you won't find them here (sorry, I know its a cliche). 'Rock N Roll' is a prime example, with a title leaving you to except some wack 'Rip Rock' thing, its cool to hear Mos speak about something original (giving props to the artists that originated Rock). 'New World Water' is another new spin on an old concept, with Mos changing the NWO conspiracies to a clever water based tale ("Son I ain't got time trying to be Big Hank / Fuck a bank, I need a 20 year water tank").
Even when Mos is running on empty, he manages to deliver dopeness. 'Speed Law,' is a great bragging/battle rap over a smooth beat which Mos rides without a single speed bump (sorry). Lyrically Mos drops nice raps, and gives a nice break from the concept dense joints you'll find all over the album. 'Know That' is similarly incredible emptiness, as the rejoined Black Star drop top quality battle lyrics over an amazing beat. While tracks like these aren't really the focus of the LP, they sure as hell don't disappoint.
Is there anything wrong with this album? Well, I said my stuff about Mos' delivery, which sometimes makes the tracks a little under whelming, but its a small price to pay. To be fair to Mos, he has dropped a debut which will only be kicked out of the top 5 albums of the years if Outkast, Goodie MOB, Pharoahe Monch, Dr Dre et al deliver their full promise. And even then, this'll be a must have album. I've barely criticized this album, so I probably don't need to tell you to buy this joint. But I will. Buy this joint. Thank you.