Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
Rawkus Records, 1999.
'Black On Both Sides' is the debut album from Brooklyn based MC Mos Def. I've known of and
liked Mos Def since '94-'95 when he appeared on 'Manifest Destiny' with his brother DCQ and
his sister Ces. So I had high expectations for the solo LP. Especially after his stirling
work/single on Soundbombing Vol.1 'Universal Magnatic' b/w 'If You Can Huh You Can Hear'.
Another collaberative effort saw him team up with Talib Kweli to produce the Blackstar
album in 1997.
The same year 'Black On Both Sides' dropped, so did Soundbombing Vol.2. Mos appeared on
the impressive High N Mighty track 'B-Boy Document 99', as well as performing the dope
'Next Universe' track. Establishing Mos as Rawkus records front runner.
Vol.2 also featured the classic Medina Green joint 'Crosstown Beef', Medina Green being
the group he and the aforementioned brother (DCQ) formed. Around that time was basically
the prime of Rawkus, and some say the prime of Mos... after his dissapointing recent
effort 'The New Danger'.
The album is about so many things. Firstly a love of hiphop, and the birthplace of hiphop,
Brooklyn. Then about black and political consciousness. Displayed on 'New World Water'
is a little rapped about economical hot point. 'Mathematics' is a roll call of statistics
listing discrimination against black people, and what better way to make a point than over
a Dj Premier produced beat. Mos carries off everything he touches on this album, percussion
drums, congas, vibraphone AND keyboards.The talent is displayed on the albums closing track
'May-December' where he also plays the bass!
His singing voice, to some, is a debatable feature of the man. I personally think it sounds
good, and he uses it to good effect, most notably on the track 'Umi Says'.
At numerous points on the album, he pays respect to the architects. On the track 'Brooklyn'
he makes use of the Nashiem Myrick beat that Biggie Smalls famously ripped 'Who Shot Ya'
which also contains a re-assembled version of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song 'Under The
He also exhibits his influence on the least easy-to-listen-to track on the album,
Rock 'N Roll, which despite sounding out of place and misjointed is a clever point well
made, a dissection of White America's history of abducting black musical innovation.
The influence is the original black rock 'n rollers John Coltrane, James Brown, Otis
'Ms Fat Booty' is the clear repeatable-ta-death track. Aretha Franklin plays her part!
(One Step) A love song with an unforseen conclusion. Produced by Ayatollah, so you know
it's a banger. Mos performs the usual fluid rhyming, with the typical line of quotable
"I'm type polite but now I'm lookin at her skeptically 'cause baby girl got all
the right weaponry designer fabric, shoes, and accessories chinky eyes, sweet voice is
*fucking* on me mentally."
Back when Busta was dope he dropped a few verses on the excellent back and forth collab
'Do It Now' produced by Mr Khaliyl, which is yet another dope component combined with the
other facets of the album, it has to be classic!!
Fear Not Of Man
- Acts as an opening to the album, just getting you into the correct
mindstate. Produced by Mos Def
- 5/5 - "Speech is my hammer bang the world into shape", enough said! Beat
by Diamond from D.I.T.C.
- 5/5 - Produced by 88 Keys, Documenting emotions and different things Mos has
distributed 'love' to.
Ms Fat Booty
- 6/5 - Produced by Ayatollah. Bangs
- 5/5 - Produced by 88 Keys.
Do It Now
ft/ Busta Rhymes - 5/5 - Produced by Mr Khaliyl.
- 5/5 - Produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammed.
- 4.75/5 - Produced by Mos Def.
New World Water
- 5/5 - Produced by Psycho Les.
Rock 'N Roll
- 3/5 - Produced by Psycho Les.
ft/ Talib Kweli - 5/5 - Produced by Ayatollah.
- 4/5 - Produced by Etch-A-Sketch.
- 5/5 - Produced by Ge-ology, Mos Def & Dave Kennedy.
- 5/5 - Produced by Etch-A-Sketch.
ft/ Q TIp - 5/5 - Produced by D-Prosper.
- 5/5 - Produced by DJ Premier.
- 4/5 - Produced by 88 Keys & Mos Def.
In conclusion; Mos talks about the power struggle that was and still is
taking place in hiphop; "There is universal law whether rich or poor some
say life’s a game to more life is war so put them ego’s to the side and get
off them head trips/". Politically relevant AND dope, few artists at this
time can combine those 2 things...