Five years ago, on the most audacious move of a brilliant debut, Mos Def declared "The Rolling Stones could never, ever rock like Nina Simone," and reclaimed rock 'n' roll for the ghetto. On The New Danger, he puts his music where his mouth was. Bristling with guitars and filled with raw, murky sounds alien to the urban mainstream, this is undoubtedly part, if not all, of the long-lost album from Mos Def's all-star rock band, Black Jack Johnson. And it's a disc that, apart from the obligatory (if subdued) Kanye West single "Sunshine," the hip-hop street will shun, which Mos well knows. So while its experimentation -- blues shouters, messy jams, the multipart Marvin Gaye tribute "Modern Marvel" -- is hit-or-miss, the courageous spirit in which it's intended can be intoxicating.
However, while Mos Def's reluctance to rhyme is no crime, the improvised rambling that sometimes takes its place is a poor substitute. Most disturbingly, his flip of Jay-Z's "Takeover" on "The Rape Over" is a defense of hip-hop's roots that you'd expect from the opportunistic racist Benzino, not one of the game's finest MCs. It's such lyrical shortcomings that keep The New Danger from really shaking up the old musical order.
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