Mos Def Gets Almos’ “Ecstatic”
Back in 2007 when Mos Def released True Magic, the real magic seemed to be that the album was enjoyed by anyone. The rapper-cum-actor was fulfilling contractual obligations and it showed. This week, Mos Def dropped The Ecstatic, and many punning music critics have been ecstatic that it surpasses his ’07 flop.
Opening with an audio byte of Malcolm X proclaiming, “We’re living in a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods and I for one will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth,” Mos Def wobbles a bit on the boundaries of deluded self-importance, but then again, he is a rapper, so that is to be expected to a degree. And this pretension can be forgotten once the intro track “Supermagic” continues on into wailing middle eastern inspired electric guitar behind Mos Def slamming lyrical gems like “I rebuke these snitches, we know the truth, can’t confuse me bitches.”
Throughout The Ecstatic Mos Def waxes poetic over orchestral or middle eastern styled beats, sometimes even over a conflation of the two genres as in “Auditorium.” “Quiet Dog Bite Hard” incorporates hand clapping, cow bell knocking, and shaker shaking for one of the most infectious tracks on the album, one which actually lives up to record title.
Perhaps the track which carries the most momentum– musically and historically– is “Life in Marvelous Times,” in which Mos Def narrates his youth at the Roosevelt Housing Projects in Bed-Stuy, a Brooklyn neighborhood increasingly white and gentrified today. Though Mos Def’s rather sloppily lyricized and ill-matched harmonizing over the bridge gets a bit cringe-worthy, the song is one of the most shoulder-rocking of the album. Furthermore, when Mos rhymes what he knows rather than soap box rapping as in “Revelations,” it is a much more rewarding listening experience. That said, the exception to the rule is “Worker’s Comp.,” a more melodic song lamenting the hardship of scarce employment and the need to cling to what work can be had still.
Ultimately, The Ecstatic is a fortunate far cry from True Magic though not quite an album which will throw a brother into ecstasy.
About TracyOneill Tracy is a freelance writer based out of Brooklyn obsessed with nutritional supplements, mediocre music, audacious (to put it politely) apparel, literary giants, and perfecting the fine art of the Sunday Bloody Mary.