Saturday, August 22, 2009

CD Review: The Ecstatic by Mos Def

In recent years, Mos Def has become more well-known for his acting than his music. His latest album suggests that it should be the other way around. With a unique sound all its own, The Ecstatic is one of the more intriguing hip-hop albums released so far this year. While its quirks take some getting used to, this album is certainly worth your time.

The feel of this album is quite different from a lot of hip-hop efforts. Most of the tracks on the album (nine out of sixteen) are less than three minutes long. Three of those tracks are less than two minutes long.

However, don't let the length of the tracks fool you. None of them are pointless interludes or skits. Every track actually feels like a song. “Priority,” with its deceptively simple beat courtesy of producer Preservation, is both a highlight of the album and its shortest track.

Working with a variety of producers, Mos Def has created some interesting sounds for The Ecstatic. One thing that stands out is the use of Eastern music samples. “Supermagic,” gets the album off to a rousing start with passionate sampled vocals and some funky guitar. The stellar “Auditorium” glides over some beautiful strings with a Bollywood feel. The Madlib-produced track is aided by the appearance of hip-hop legend Slick Rick.

“The Embassy” starts off as a skit taking place on an airplane and becomes something else entirely. A smooth beat is interchanged with a jangling, Eastern music sample. Other tracks on the album sound closer to what many would expect of Mos Def. He reunites with Black Star colleague Talib Kweli on “History,”and teams with Georgia Anne Muldrow on the R & B-tinged “Roses.” The album's closer, “Casa Bey,” has him riding a jazzy track.

The Ecstatic is a solid album from start to finish. The production is top-notch and its sound makes it stand out from a lot of other hip-hop albums. Mos Def thankfully spends more time rapping than singing as well. The only thing about this album is that it can take some time to get into. Traditional song structures are thrown to the wind on some of the tracks here and that can be jarring.

However, this is an album that gets better with each listen as you begin to appreciate what Mos Def is doing. If you are a Mos Def fan or someone looking for hip-hop that's a bit more artistic, you should check out this album.

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