Mos Def's name and face were seared on hip-hop's collective consciousness when he and partner Talib Kweli, calling themselves Black Star, dropped their debut record last year. Of the two performers, it was Mos Def who offered styles and rhythms that honored the most creative aspects of the culture. But whether Mos Def could hold his own on a solo disc was the question.
"Black on Both Sides" offers the most consciousness, concern, class, style and versatility since "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." True, that's a tall accolade, but when was the last time you got down to a protest song about America's contamination and marketing of its water supply? When was the last time someone rapped, sang, dueted and educated you, all on one disc?
With the exception of Mos Def's eonslong tribute to his hometown of Brooklyn, there's no need to fast-forward this CD. "Do It Now," "Got," "New World Water" and "Mathematics" are highlights.