Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mos Def: The New Danger [Geffen, 2004]
Musically, Mos Def has always been a little dull--so caught up in his own smarts he let verbal flow carry his albums. Here the defining flow is sonic--a shadowy, guitar-drenched tone poem of the streets. Songs transmute into raps as the album shifts from Black Jack Johnson blues-metal toward smoother beats that quote Hair and twice reference What's Going On in mix and mood as well as content before building to a soulish horn band, some catchy rock nonsense overdubbed entirely by Mos Def, a heart ballad he very nearly sings, and a party-ready requiem cum call to action. "My work is personal, I'm a workin' person/I put in work, I work with purpose," he reminds anyone who would reduce "hard work" to a right-wing slogan. But an equally telling lyric on an album whose secret hero is Bad Brains' Dr. Know is a silly one: "Black Jack Johnson NYC/R-O-C-K-I-N-G." A-