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Album review: Mos Def's 'The Ecstatic'

Mosdef In 2006, MC-cum-actor Mos Def released the titularly misleading "True Magic," an uninspired last gasp with Geffen Records that would've been more accurately dubbed "Contractual Obligation." But "The Ecstatic," his fourth solo album, mostly lives up to its giddy name with Bollywood-style samples and off-kilter production from Stones Throw stars Madlib and his brother Oh No, and the late J Dilla.

It also showcases Mos Def's most engaged lyrical flow in years -- positive in spirit and some of it looking back, as he does on "History" with his former Black Star compatriot Talib Kweli. Set to a crooked Dilla beat that reshuffles itself more cleverly than the average loop, "History" concludes with one of Mos Def's cerebral rhyme-strands and then segues into "Casa Bey," which pits chugging samba funk against optimistic, misty-eyed piano traces.

At its start, "The Ecstatic" is more aggressive and a little spooky. The atmospheric "Auditorium" is built from a track off of Madlib's "Beat Konducta in India" series and features a captivating guest appearance from Slick Rick in which he imagines himself as a soldier in Iraq. "Quiet Dog Bite Hard" is a stark but shimmying rumbler made for Brooklyn mean streets.

"The Ecstatic" flags in spots and the album's tricky samples take a while to absorb. But the 16-song collection offers proof that Mos Def can still be invigorated from a tight beat as much as a tightly written script.

-- Margaret Wappler

Mos Def
"The Ecstatic"
(Downtown Records)
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Comments () | Archives (8)

To the critic:

The "Bollywood-style" samples are from Turkish superstar Selda Bagcan's song "Ince Ince."

NOT bollywood style samples Margaret... This Album is great, Mos Def.

Thanks for the comments but I think Bollywood-style samples is fair. For instance, "Auditorium," which takes a track from Madlib's "Beat Konducta in India' series, is described on the Stones Throw website as a "tour of Bollywood, circa 1975."

I thought this album was absolutely incredible and is told almost as an old school hip hop style story from track to track ranging from politics to club songs. This is definitely an album that I would recommend to others who are tired of the gangsta rap and a lot of the new rap music that has undoubtedly gone down hill in the past years besides a select few artists. Mos Def kills it on this album and anyone reading this who likes smart lyricists with great flows should check it out.

Mos Def is one of the top emcees out right now. His lyrics on this album touch so many cultures and topics. His flow is hypnotic and sends my mind to cloud nine every time I turn on a song from this album. I will definitely have this album in my car for a good 3 weeks straight. This record is a Hip Hop Classic!

A series of pleasant surprises: unpredictable rhythms and texture blends laced with profundities nestled into simple phrases. Elegant and innovative. Everything I'd expect from hip-hop's vanguard. A rapper myself, this album delights and inspires me.

Also, he flows in Spanish, fluently and effectively. Come on!

This is one of 3 really good albums I've bought all this year. Mos has definitely brought a new direction in his music with this album and the whole thing is just put together nicely. I recommend this album anybody, despite whether they are into hip hop are not, this album isn't limited by genre. The Ecstatic can be understood and enjoyed by anyone.

A definite classic. big up on this one, Mos.

In my opinion, this is a dissapointing album. dont get me wrong, Mos Def has amazing lyrics but the beats and style chosen do not appeal to me as a hip-hop fan. i feel that he has tried to push the boundaries of hip-hop abit far and failed to do that for me. he should go back to the style he had with blackstar.


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