It has been five long years since the mighty Mos released his fantastic solo debut, Black on Both Sides, and heads have been jonesing for a new album from him ever since. Instead, Mr. Dante Smith has dabbled in just about everything but hip-hop, starring in a Broadway play, winning an Emmy, leading a rock band and hosting Def Poetry Jam. But unlike rappers-turned-actors DMX, Ja Rule and Ice Cube, Mos has displayed theatrical talent comparable to his mike skills.
Mos announced he would release his second LP, The New Danger, only a month before its scheduled release date, wisely preventing the hype machine from running wild. But with little publicity, no marketable single, and no music video, Mos still pushed nearly 100,000 units in the first week. After such a long hiatus, will fans be receptive to The New Danger‘s musical mixed bag of rock, rap, blues and R&B? They should be: The New Danger is the logical and musical progression of Black on Both Sides.
Mos put on hold his Black Jack Johnson venture — with which he wanted to perfect the rap-rock hybrid — but a heavy rock element is weaved throughout The New Danger. Mos treads a thin line, blending bass-heavy tracks with scattered electric guitar rifts, typified in the track “Ghetto Rock.” And for the most part the sonic combination flows naturally, never feeling forced or contrived. Mos may have played mad scientist with the production, but lyrically he remains the consummate professional. Take the Easy Mo’ Bee-produced “Zimzallabim,” where Mos’s heated verse is spit with his trademark West Indian/Brooklyn accent: “My flow tighter than a big tity halter top/ My sharp mind joins the dots/ unfoiling plots/ A lot cats talk noise a lot/ but then noises stop/ when that heavy sound voices drop.”
Mos flexes his vocal muscles on the blues-influenced track “Bedstuy Parade,” which would be the perfect backdrop for any hot summer night in Brooklyn. But despite his attempt to expand his vocal and musical repertoire, tracks like “The Beggar” and “Modern Marvel” sound like recycled takes of “Umi Says.” Mos certainly has a capable singing voice, but unfortunately it dominates the album. We came to hear him spit, not croon.
With so many years between albums, some will undoubtedly be disappointed. Mos has yet to find a sound and style that best suits all of his talents. The bottom line? Mos Def will only continue to get better, and that, perhaps, is the new danger.