This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.
September 22, New York: I’ve been too busy to stick to my strict consumption schedule. Work got hectic, the weekend was well-booked, and so I dragged my feet on posting about this album and I missed my goal of seven for last week. Also, honestly, it was because I wasn’t done listening to Black on Both Sides yet. It is just too good.
When I first discovered Mos Def it was when I was realizing there was more to hip hop than the radio and here was this voice that was honest, sincere, compassionate, and holy crap could he rhyme. A track like “Mathematics”? Stop it. Just stop. “Ms. Fat Booty”? “Got”? Gawd. Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) is a god among men. There’s not a single track on here that doesn’t impress.
And this is one of the first self-aware hip-hop albums I’d heard. An album with a point (or a few). I’d missed Public Enemy, safely ensconced in the dirty south. But here was an absolutely invaluable lesson in race and identity. Here was a complex and challenging use of the word-that-began-with-n-that-I-should-never-use, not just as a generous sprinkling to emphasize the choruses. Here was a whole song about the political power of clean water. Here was a song arguing for a black history of rock and roll that ended with a bad-ass punk rock bit.
Listening to this album today is such a treat. I probably listened for four days straight, every time I put my headphones to my ears. Music is lucky to have the occasional album like Black on Both Sides, and America is lucky to have a voice like Mos Def.
If you’ve never heard Black on Both Sides, you must amend that and do so now with your One-Click-Purchase.