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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Mos Returns to Roots on “Ecstatic”

Similar to other aspects of life, within the hip-hop world, a rapperís first impression means the world. Thatís why the debut album is the quintessential album of an artistís career. After all, if your first album isnít up to par, whoís to say youíre going to get a second chance? Chances are youíll be dropped in the blink of an eye. But, if youíre one of the few artists who can actually pull off a masterpiece of an album the first time around, all is not well. Just ask Nas and Jay-Z, both artists achieved overwhelming critical success with their first albums, and have been criticized for not recreating the magic in their preceding albums. Now Mos Def represents a unique situation due to the fact that he has not one, but two classic debut albums to live up to, Black on Both Sides & Mos Def and Talib Kweli Presents Blackstar. While 2004ís The New Danger didnít live up to expectations, it showed Mos experimenting and expanding his horizons into the Rock world. 2007ís Tru3 Magic featured an unfocused Mos that was clearly focused more on his film career than his hip-hop career.

Itís now 2009 and the boogeyman has dropped his forth-solo album, The Ecstatic. From the title alone, you can tell that Def is attempting to bring back the lyrics, and he doesnít disappoint. All you have to do is listen to the albumís first single, ìLife in Marvelous Timesî, to see that Mos is focused this time around. What the The Ecstatic does really well is combine the Rock influenced beats of The New Danger, and the conscious hip-hop from his debut album. Also, his singing on the tracks has really been integrated within the tracks in a much fluid way this time around. While listening to The Ecstatic, itís extremely clear to see that Mos Def actually sounds more comfortable and is having a good time recording the album.

Mos Def definitely seems well traveled within the album. ìNo Hay Nada Masî is spit fully in Spanish by the boogeyman. And throughout the album, his Muslim affiliations become more apparent than any of his previous albums and this includes, various Arabic samples and track names such as, ìWahidî (the number one in Arabic).

The album begins on a great note with a Malcolm X excerpt on the Oh No produced ìSupermagicî and continues on to ìTwilite Speedballî and ìAuditoriumî featuring Slick Rick. ìAuditoriumísî Madlib produced beat provides a great track for both Mos and Slick to do their things. Mos rhymes ìmy flows forever deep / and its volumes or scriptures when I breath on a beat / my presence speak volumes before I say a wordî. Def then continues to drop scriptures on what proves to be one of 2009ís best singles, ìLife in Marvelous Timesî. The tract vividly describes life in 1982ís Bedstuy, Brooklyn and Mos rips the Mr. Flash produced beat apart, spitting, ìOn-going saga, terminal diagnosis / basic human survival requires super-heroics / no space in the budget for a cape / so, you gotta fly by the night to save the dayî.

Itís amazing how well the production was handled on the album. Madlib, Oh No, and Mr. Flash all provide amazing beats, so that Def can do what he does best (and no Iím not talking about his acting!). One canít forget the wonderful J Dilla produced Blackstar reunion on ìHistoryî. But, ìWahidî proves that the short and sweet formula still works. Although, the track clocks in at only a minute and forty seconds, Madlibís strong drums and samples make the track really stand out from the pack. All in all, ten years after Mosí classic beginnings, he comes full circle and delivers one of 2009ís best hip-hop albums.