It’s been ten years since Mos Def released his seminal debut album Black on Both Sides but if you were to grade him on his activities since, it would make for a depressing report card. Cerebrally disappointing albums in The New Danger, the truly awful True Magic and largely forgettable guest appearances made it look like Mos would be yet another Rawkus Records victim.
A newly-forged successful film career suggested Mos was almost done with music and naturally, the Mos Def fan club were a little disquieted. Thankfully, The Ecstatic is the charge needed to restore faith in one of the best MCs of the last twenty years and a contender for hip-hop album of the year.
Like any MC, Mos Def needs a worthy producer to work with and for his fourth outing he’s picked contributions from the best of the crop: Oh No, Madlib, J Dilla and Mr. Flash. Even Preservation who made beats for the ill-fated label-troubled True Magic throws up some excellent instrumentals here for the renewed New York rapper who allows his verve to pierce the corners of this project making it worth a damn this time around.
The Ecstatic is imbued with a sense of global which makes the narrative much more compelling than your average. ‘Supermagic’ takes Oh No’s Turkish-sampling track “Heavy” and turns into an exhilarating opening gambit, ‘Twilight Speedball’ is built upon menacing marching horns and xylophone which lends it a covert feel. Madlib’s Beat Konducta in India series is raided for ‘Auditorium’ which is lended an Iraqi-focus thanks to a great guest turn from Slick Rick and ‘The Embassy’ continues the theme of international relations with a rap about the exclusive life of ambassadors set to a Middle Eastern tune. Mos even tries his hand at singing in Spanish on the chilled ‘No Hay Nada Mas’.
Combine these universal flourishes with the odd breather, like the Georgia Ann Muldrow-featuring ‘Roses’, the Black Star reunion ‘History’ and a fired up MC clearly relishing twisting words to beats once again and you’ve got a sense of ceremony and the renaissance of an MC that looked unlikely four years ago.
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