What better way to get back into my little writers nook than to do a little BaRF action for you guys eh? Let’s begin shall we?
Our boy Dante has been for years an advocate for Brooklyn hip hop, and for good reason. He isn’t your run of the mill artist talking about bullshit. I first really got into him whilst in his powerful duo with MC Talib Kweli, forming Blackstar. Their self titled album debut in 1998, and has remained one of the most important hip hop albums in the industry today. Taking a break from acting, he jumped back in the studio to try and update us on the times.
And while Blackstar hasn’t made their triumphant return just yet, Mos Def recently released his latest work entitled The Ecstatic. Mos takes us on another trip down the deepest parts of all of our cultures, from drugs, to violence, to the war in Iraq. Let’s break it down BaRF style.
Just like the lyric in Casa Bey, the entire album has a ‘fantastic rawness’ to it throughout the album. I say this because while keeping the funky Brooklyn vibe alive in later songs, the first half of the album has a Middle Eastern organic feel to it sprinkled about it.
The intro track, Supermagic, was produced by Oh No (the brother of the legendary Madlib) and brings electric guitar to an Islamic culture (very suiting since Def is of Islamic faith) for a very successful beat.
Another favorite of mine is the sixth track, and also the second single off the album, entitled Quiet Dog Bite Hard. It focuses heavily on the drums; many types of drums to be exact. In a live performance on David Letterman (which I wanted to embed, but it was pulled), Mos plays drums along with the band behind him.
Pistola, the tenth track, was also produced by Oh No. Maybe it’s the sampling in the background of Billy Wooten’s In the Rain, or the xylophone playing amongst the track, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.
But Casa Bey, the last track (and also the third single), is by far the best, with a live band jamming out the funky tunes. Produced by Andre Lyon, he made sure he got the east coast feel perfectly right, and I tip my hat to him for it. Some of you may see me bobbing my head to this one around town, even if my speakers are already torn to shreds.
What can I say really? It’s Mos Def at his finest. I was a fan of his other work, but his writing on this album is for sure his best work yet. While the song Life in Marvelous Times (the 7th track) isn’t my favorite beat, the message in the lyrics are clever and as usual, picture painting. Here’s a piece of the lyrics:
Ends don't meet where the arms can't reach Mean streets Even when its free it ain't cheap. On going saga, terminal diagnosis, Basic survival requires super heroics.
No space in the budget for a cake It's when you gotta fly by night to save the day
Crash-landings routinely happen Some survive, others never rise from the ashes.
Watching asphalt and observing the Sabbath. Creates an ecstatic and there you have it
While there aren’t that many people jumping on this album, they are very powerful additions. In the studio, you have producer Dre on Casa Bey (although I don’t know what he exactly said), and Georgia Anne Muldrow on Roses.
The two that will attract big flies however; will be Talib Kweli on the J Dilla (whom is resting in peace) produced song History. Talib is always welcome on a Mos Def album to give me a taste of Blackstar. The track may not have been Definition from the Blackstar album, but it’ll do. However, the biggest surprise to me is the addition of the one and only Slick Rick (lahdy dahdy) to the mix, giving his amazing verse about being a soldier in Iraq in the song Audition. While giving that trademark soft humorous tone in his voice, Rick still delivers a powerful message about the state of our war.
But to get to the nitty, the best track all around would have to be Casa Bey, for its overall creativity, from funky bass line intro, to the piano outro to take us home. What’s more, is that the video for the album was extremely creative and original, and with the bonus featurette of The Roots playing live with Mof Def on Jimmy Fallon, it sealed the deal. I’ve delivered (as I always do *wink wink*) the live video link for you to see what I mean. And here's the link to the actual music video from YouTube (they didn't want anyone embedding apparently). MySpace is selling the album for 3.99 so go cop it!
Hopefully this BaRF is just what you needed to eat up before the weekend. More love to come next week!
Until next time my friends,