Mos Def -- The Ecstatic
Mos Definite might be one of the most enigmatic figures in hip hop. As one of the members of Black Star (with Talib Kweli) and then as a solo artist, Def was considered at the vanguard of a new movement of independent artists carrying on a tradition of lyricism, soul music, and just plain fun (remember him as the third generation native tonguer on Big Brotha Beat?). As we turned to the new millennium however, the Renaissance man that is Dante Smith branched out further with his pursuits; acting, singing and quickly becoming a rising celebrity/personality beyond the world of independent hip hop music.
That isn’t to say, he had stopped producing music, but subsequent albums “The New Danger” and “True Magic” left many hardcore Def fans wanting, and by all accounts the artist himself in a hip hop limbo, not fully embraced by the mainstream and in some regards disconnected from his core audience.
“The Ecstatic” is somewhat a return to form for Pretty Flaco as sonically and conceptually this feels like a more natural follow to “The New Danger” and by extension a fusion of both that album and his seminal classic, “Black on Both Sides”.
Production from the late great Dilla, Oh No, Neptunes, Madlib, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and the Mighty Mos himself are really the meat behind this project. Whether it’s the vibes on “Twilite SpeedBall” or Madlib’s Beat Konducting the swami like “Auditorium” (with Slick Rick showing his ageless story telling skills….the man has solidified himself as an institution in hip hop) Mos has a haunting, driving soundtrack that is pretty steady throughout. He teams up with Kweli on the track “History” that is such a teaser, you’re reminded of the synergy those two had as Black Star over JD’s Motown era sample. Other stand out tracks such as Embassy, Quiet Dog Bite Hard, and Workers Comp all give you just a little taste of the Mos Def we remember, street smart, world wise, and charisma spilling all over the beat. As a whole, The Ecstatic is a solid album and in some regards similar to Common’s “BE” in that it finds an artist coming almost full circle to his origins while still grounded in their present creative permutation. If you’re wanting “Black on…” part two, stop reading. If you are cringing at the thought of Mos moving further into the experimental realms , take a deep breath. This album is neither, rather its a new beginning, and a pretty good start at that.
by Mikal Amin Lee for Nomadic Wax