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Mos Def: The Ecstatic

Music Reviews Mos Def
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Mos Def: <em>The Ecstatic</em>

Mos Def returns from long strange trip with excitingly coherent new album


At this point, you could be forgiven for knowing Mos Def as an actor rather than a musician. His name was synonymous with the late '90s’ resurgence of politically pugnacious hip-hop, but after his equally era-defining label, Rawkus Records, was absorbed into Interscope, Mos went mainstream as a thespian and plumbed new depths of self-indulgent awfulness as a musician. His latest, The Ecstatic, arrives on the 10-year anniversary of his classic debut, Black on Both Sides. Anniversaries are a time for reflection, and for long stretches of the album, Mos remembers with a start that he’s an exceptionally talented rapper. The rootless “experimental” gambits that plagued 2006 train-wreck True Magiclegend Slick Rick, and a reunion track with Talib Kweli, his former partner in the group Black Star (called “History,” no less). But it’s also modern, with the kind of exotic pan-global production (from Euro-club to Turkish-psych) that’s a must in the post-Timbaland era. (But Mos, why no Auto-Tune? It’s okay now!) That’s what we call re-centering. Even the Malcolm X sample that opens the album can’t quell the feeling that Mos’ revolutionary capital is long-since spent, but it’s good to know that he can still save his music, if not the world.


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