It ails me to call this a return to form for Mos Def considering all the classics that he's given us. After a certifiable classic ("Black on Both Sides") an unfocused side project turned official release ("The New Danger") and an album where he seemed a bit bored ("Tru Magic"), Mos recruited a stable of renowned producers and created a focused and at times mind blowing Hip-Hop record.
If you want to get my attention from the get-go, you couldn't possibly do better than start off your album with a track that uses an Oh No beat off of "Dr. No's Oxperiment" In fact, half of the album is in fact produced by Stones Throw artists including Oh No, Madlib, (the late, great) J. Dilla, and Georgia Anne Muldrow. If you are looking to craft a "return to form" Hip-Hop record, you can't go wrong with a lineup as strong as that.
Mos is focused on this album. I started to wonder after he had started appearing in movie after movie about how seriously he took his career in music. I think a lot of it had to do with how disappointed I was in his last album. Well, this one is not a disappointment by any means. Even the contribution by the Neptunes - "Twilight Speedball" - succeeds on this album (even if it has a strong affinity with "Sex Love and Magic" off of "The New Danger").
The only tracks on the album that really suffer are the ones where Mos falls victim to that trend of the rapper singing beyond his ability. In particular, the dancehall-influenced "Works Comp" is killed by the struggling chorus by Mos whereas the beat itself is solid.
Lyrically, Mos is Mos. Peep the stream of consciousness flow displayed on the "Madlib" produced "Wahid"
Cash and carry
Styles vary and it's very necessary
Get it clearly never scary barely wary
Bright and early
Bald head or curly
Mundane or other worldy
Mos lyrically blesses the extremely strong instrumentals on the album with his waterhose flow time and time again on the album and even gets his flow on in Spanish on the surprisingly good "No Hay Nada Mas" (where he adds "Flacco" to his growing list of aliases). I was more into the tracks by the Stones Throw stable of producers and the Dilla produced history is a revelation with the guest appearance by Talib Kweli. That isn't to say the remaining production on the album is lacking. The other tracks hold up well but to a lesser degree than those produced by the name producers.
What else can you ask for? Dope production and ill lyrics from one of the best MC's we have. Mos is back, he's focused, and you should pay attention - especially given the beats he's rhyming over this time. Peep the standouts "Pretty Dancer", "Revelations", "History", and "Wahid".
4.563 out of 5
|1. Supermagic (02:32)||5|
|2. Twilite Speedball (03:02)||5|
|3. Auditorium (feat. Slick Rick) (04:34)||5|
|4. Wahid (01:39)||5|
|5. Priority (01:22)||4|
|6. Quiet Dog (Bite Hard) (02:57)||5|
|7. Life in Marvelous Times (03:41)||5|
|8. The Embassy (02:45)||3|
|9. No hay nada mas (01:42)||5|
|10. Pistola (03:03)||5|
|11. Pretty Dancer (03:31)||5|
|12. Workers Comp (02:02)||2|
|13. Revelations (02:03)||5|
|14. Roses (feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow) (03:41)||4|
|15. History (feat. Talib Kweli) (02:21)||5|
|16. Casa Bey (04:32)||5|