Let’s play football, and Mos Def’s sophomore album, The New Danger, is an 18-game season. There’s a new team, Geffen Records, a new starting lineup, rock band Black Jack Johnson, and a new playbook involving live instruments. Fans of Mos the B-boy, prepare to adjust. This is an organic lineup. He’ll still make the playoffs, but he’ll scare you in the process. The Pistons did the same thing last year, and you loved them by June.
The biggest adjustments come during inventive stretches like “Blue Black Jack,” the gritty blues tune that digs up old soul Shuggie Otis. Good song, too long. “Modern Marvel” lifts Marvin Gaye’s “Save the Children” for nine minutes of creative calisthenics listeners may not have the wind for.
But there’s convention. “Sunshine” is raw, bouncy. A Kanye West song, “The Rape Over,” is a lip-busting reality check for the hood. And it’s too short. But dig these lines: “All white men is runnin’ this rap shit/Corporate forces is runnin’ this rap shit/Some tall Israeli is runnin’ this rap shit/We poke out our ass for a chance to cash in.”
This album will disappoint anyone looking for canned rap. Leave 16-bar verses and eight-bar choruses to Fabolous. Good thing: Mos embraces his influences, his individuality. Danger is getting dicey reviews because it’s not meant to just rock you. But it does confront the way we perceive music.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].