More a collage than a collective statement (which immediately places it in unfavorable context after his suburb 1999 solo debut Black On Both Sides), Mos Def’s The New Danger is, if nothing else, a wonderful showcase for producer Minnesota, who organizes nearly half of the album’s tracks and keeps the beat hot, as Timbaland once boasted, “like water in the Jacuzzi,” even when Mos Def’s flow meanders like Minnehaha. The album’s intro, “Boogie Man Song,” is another Raphael Saadiq jam that sounds a little too much like mutiny on the good ship Badu, but its loose, open vibe is an appropriate scene-setting call to arms, at least until the next few tracks, which see Mos replanting “The Seed 2.0” and forging attractive entries in the hip-hop/rock hybrid that Jay-Z took to a climax last year with “99 Problems.” “Freaky Black” is a moshing, Rage Against the Machine in half-time workout that segues nicely into the cavernously acid-funky “Ghetto Rock” (the first Minnesota production). Chugging like it was recorded inside the heart of an elephant strutting through his mating grounds, it’s almost a shame that the musical cockiness of the track is reigned in by Mos Def’s almost defensive-sounding “Yes we are…so ghet-to/Yes we are…rock and roll” and maybe the single least impressive boast of the season: “I’m the Earth, Wind, Fire and the thunder/I said I am, go axe my mutha.” (I did, she told me to listen to “Mighty Mighty” for my answer.) Even still, Minnesota’s marching-section ghetto lurch gives Mos the benefit of the doubt, which is more than can be said for the truly depressing “War,” which scarcely scratches the level of outrage OutKast tapped last year on Speakerboxxx. The comparison might be unfair, until you consider that the a mid-song vocal break featuring a sanctimonious chap prattling on about how “we all want to help each other,” is interrupted by Mos Def declaring “Fuck! That!” is nearly a replay of the ATLiens’ earlier schism. It’s the album’s low point, which, given the global situation, probably seems more egregious at the moment than it might’ve five years ago. But it’s not five years ago, and the surfeit of “What’s Going On” samples that pepper the otherwise galvanizing “Modern Marvel” (the greatest nine-minute digression that never showed up on a Roots LP) sound less pensive and a lot more ineffectual than the original song did during the tail years of Vietnam. Of course, this could all be in service of answering the album’s title. Perhaps the new danger is political diffidence.
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