In a pop culture music world where pre-manufactured teen boy bands and bling wearing, Crystal popping’ gangsta rappers dominate the T.V. and radio airwaves, it is refreshing to hear a musician who doesn’t just apply the “equation” to sell the most records.
Within the rap world there is a sub-genre called “conscious rap,” where rappers use their lyrics to convey a positive, enlightening message. Mos Def, one of the few remaining conscious rappers, continues the vision of using rap to motivate, change and elevate African-Americans in America.
His latest album, “The New Danger,” blurs the line between rap and rock with elements of fusion jazz and underground rock. Tracks range from fast- paced barrages of lyrics to slow, passionate jazz-oriented love songs. Some songs are very rock- oriented, thanks to collaboration with Black Jack Johnson, his all-black rock band. To those who are used to the mainstream rap/hip-hop, “The New Danger” will be a change.
The lyrics are very sharp and pointed. Mos Def communicates his dissatisfaction with the way the rap game is run. “MTV is running this rap sh**, Viacom is running this rap sh**, AOL/Time Warner is running this rap sh**, We broke out our asses for a chance to cash in,” says Mos Def in the song Rape Over. Mos Def’s style of rap is more underground and less commercial than what is playing on the radio stations.
Conscious rap has been defined in the past by groups such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Brand Nubian. After their popularity declined, a new generation of conscious rappers emerged. Rappers such as Common and Talib Kweli made a name for themselves by filling a void in the rap community that yearned for socially reflective lyrics and sophisticated rhyme.
Mos Def is part of this new generation of conscious rappers, of which there are not very many. Even though Mos Def is an accomplished rapper, he started out in the acting scene. After attempting a couple of unsuccessful television shows, he began experimenting with the rap scene. Even though he makes more money rapping than he did acting, Mos Def did not give up his passion for performance.
Since making a name for himself in the rap world, he simultaneously played roles in such movies as “Monsters Ball,” “Bamboozled,” and “The Italian Job.” Since Mos Def refreshed the hip-hop community with his first album “Black Star,” a collaboration with Talib Kweli, and his first solo album, “Black on both Sides,” to his newest album, “The New Danger,” Mos Def continues his mission to enlighten urban society with a cerebral translation of rap with street smart lyrics and a dedication to his underground roots.