The Underrated: Mos Def's The New Danger

By @1natethegreat4 

1. The Boogie Man Song
2. Freaky Black Greetings 
3. Ghetto Rock 
4. Zimzallabim
5. The Rape Over
6. Blue Black Jack
7. Bedstuy Parade & Funeral
8. Sex, Love and Money
9. Sunshine 
10. Close Edge
11. The Panties 
12. War
13. Grown Man Business (Fresh Vintage Bottles)
14. Modern Marvel 
15. Life Is Real 
16. The Easy Spell 
17. The Beggar 
18. Champion Requiem

2004 was a great year in hip hop and I mentioned that in a previous DAR article. Let’s move away from the mainstream and move into a dark side of 2004.  Yasiin Bey, a.k.a Mos Def, dropped his second album called “The New Danger” with Geffen Records. This album is something different. We understand Mos Def's style and this album is absolutely one of a kind. It doesn’t “fit" in the year it dropped nor the present years and that’s acceptable. Experimental albums are something special, but can have polarizing reviews. This album fits in what I just stated.  The overall album is all over the place, is not cohesive, and possesses a mix of music genres such as jazz, rock, rap, and blues. The unpredictability of Mos Def's sung vocals and rap ability leaves you on suspense on the first listen because it’s not put together.

This album takes multiple listens for it to grow on you and the production is satisfying with plenty of samples of aggressive metal, funky jazz, soothing blues, and various rhyme schemes of rap. Some would say that some songs do not fit on the album like a puzzle piece on the wrong puzzle set. That is possible. However, let’s dive into each song in “The New Danger”.

“The Boogie Man Song” is the intro to this album and it’s so chilling. I personally like the sung vocals in this album as the guitars strum their way across the track. Don’t forget about the "abandoned mansion” feel of a piano playing whispering through the background. Def’s vocals make the track feel like a hymn overall. “Freaky Black Greetings” is one of our many "change of genre" tracks in this album. It has both a blues feel until the aggressive and cocky metal riffs scream at you throughout the track.

“Ghetto Rock” comes at you with a southern blues vibe and some samples from Doug E. Fresh’s track “La Di Da Di”. The technical ability of Def’s rhyming patterns appears in the second verse and chorus is simple and on the beat.
“Zimzallabim” continues off the previous track. The lyrics in this is gritty and I appreciate this song. The production in this song puts Mos Def above the beat which in my opinion works a lot better. This song is gritty with lyrics like:

"Brooklyn got bomb-rush that you can't stop/
These the hungry hands that gon snatch your cash box/” 

This is showing Def’s aggression towards the competition and driving home the point.

“The Rape Over” is a homage to the song “Takeover” from The Blueprint by Jay-Z and his rhyme scheme is identified in this. The lyrical delivery in the song stands out as one of my favorites out of the album. A subtle jam session beat underneath Def’s lyrics and Def spits shade at what’s actually running the rap game. From lines like:

"Cocaine is runnin this rap shit/
Hennessy is runnin this rap shit/
Quasi-homosexuals is runnin this rap shit/” 

It stands as a reminder to who runs the rap game, though it should be the artists. However, some artists let the sponsorships from corporate companies take some credit. “Blue Black Jack” is a jazzy-rock vibe dedicated to to Arthur “Jack” Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight Boxing Champion and his dominance in the ring. This is an inspirational ode as Mos Def looks up to him. There are several multi-syllabic rhymes going throughout the track. The samples used throughout this song let you enjoy the genres of music you hear resonate throughout the album and you just can’t help it but enjoy. It’s just that the album is versatile on the production side because no background is the same.

“Bedstuy Parade & Funeral March” has a laid back bass guitar vibe and tambourine with a hint of snare. The track sounds directed at some special woman in Def’s life as his charismatic-sung vocals shine. I honestly didn’t like the reverb in the cymbals on this track. It was slightly a bit too loud to my taste. A great note is as Def ascends his vocal range to the soprano/alto octaves, it’s surprising but continues the sporadic ways of this exotic work. “Sex, Love and Money” with a funky sound especially with the street vibe whistling out of a flute with some swing in there. Def’s experimental swing-like lyricism and crisp delivery shines in this track. He decides to push the pace with the flute. Also, jazzy trombones gather at every fourth beat with short accents and repeated crescendoes of the trombones to fill in the lines for general effect. I love this track the most out of the album. I wish it was focused more on this type of vibe, but even “Sunshine” continues with its sample that’s just brilliant. He continues his wavy flow in the first verse and I absolutely love the first verse in it’s entirety. This song contains a free-flowing rhyme scheme that’s not focused on the downbeat and I like. Def’s clever punchlines wow you and then you want to hit rewind and if you can get get past that.

“Close Edge” is another song I liked (which first premiered back in 2003 on Chappelle's Show). It’s because the background production has those eerie synthesizers and I like the mix on it. It’s so different from the mainstream rap but you still listen to it because it’s great. Such a funky song with brilliant technical lyrics and the chorus is absolutely contagious. “The Panties” in a couple words is beautiful, romantic, and is the definition of swagger. The sample from Tom Brock’s “I Love You More and More” as the background is perfect and Mos Def’s poetic storytelling is about that special lady in his life again. Once you get to this part of the album, you wonder why the first couple songs weren’t like this. Again, this album is a versatile jam session that you would feel at an underground club.

“War” is a battle between Mos Def and the world. He points out some of the world’s struggles and his own personal struggles. Empowering lyrics with a spacey beat and layering of vocals, then he hits you with a change of beat halfway through the song, and Def makes sure you dig it. Heavy Rock music floods the second half after the interlude. “Grown Man Business” with that vintage sample that we have heard before and Mos Def smoothly works over this beat. The storytelling again is so unique. You interpret every line in your head in this song and you can slowly paint the overall story of the song. Talking about how the grown handle their business as they sell drugs to live another day and their daily struggles. “Modern Marvel” is my surprise of the album. A mix of Def singing, speaking and rapping in succession is versatile and enjoyable. The song is lengthy, but worth a listen for a new change. In his rap verse, he pours emotion with his homage to Marvin Gaye with repeated motifs. “Life is Real” provides a powerful message as he discusses the life about him and similar men in America. Focuses on stress, ex-wives, shootings, stabbings, arrests. My favorite line of the album is "Life going in every direction but rewind”.

Then there's “The Easy Spell”, a shade-throwing song at the women trying to find sugar daddies. The repetitive verses throughout the song. Talking about women wanting men to spoil them. I interpreted as a man who sees that beautiful lady and only takes them in out of lust and think they can get it until they realize her motives. Literally, like an easy spell. “The Beggar” slows it down with Def again giving us another ballad trying to persuade the woman about his real love for her. The overall theme in the songs focused towards this subject of the album make it passionate.

“Champion Requiem” is the finale and Def’s verse is just so technical with literally a mix of jazz, blues, rock and rap that comes together and the outro seems to be icing on the cake. It’s as if he samples something different throughout the whole album yet delivers it all at the grand finale in this track. This album isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a great album and one that doesn't receive the credit it should. Check it out sometime.

Overall Score: 8.5



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