Record Review - 1 December 16 2004

When cultures collide, it can be a volatile thing. The same holds true for musical genres, as demonstrated by Mos Def’s The New Danger. Over the course of the album, Mos traverses nu-rock, R&B-tinged electro, braggadocios’ street hop, and “conscious rap.” The concepts are sometimes interesting, but the actual music is a bit more difficult to take.

In many ways, The New Danger is the redheaded stepchild of Andre 3000’s The Love Below. Andre’s critically anointed classic mixed and matched genres in an attempt to uncover latent pop sensibilities. He made connections among head-snapping beats, infectious hooks and lovelorn romanticism. The New Danger, on the other hand, is a dirtier and more polemic journey.

Tracks like “Zimzallabim” and “Ghetto Rock,” featuring the talents of Bernie Worrell (P-Funk) and Doug Wimbish (Living Color), attempt to reclaim rock as an African-American genre. But while the songs are conceptually compelling, the actual music — which recalls the early thrash of Bad Brains as covered by 311 — is a different story. It’s not bad per se, but you’re left wondering if this is the most effective manner for Mos to convey his message.?The album’s hip-hop tracks fare a little better. As an MC, Mos’ appeal has always been about more than just his words. What elevated him out of the underground ghetto was that voice, a Jamaican-tinged rasp that sounds — depending on your perspective — either ultimately self-confident or stubbornly arrogant. That sense of authority is pervasive on Danger. With its sly reference to Hair, the Kanye West-produced “Sunshine” finds Mos Def in top form, defiantly declaring that he “made it go without a brand new car/made it fresh without a brand new song/and gives a fuck about what brand you are.” After verses like these, the listener is left hoping that Mos would just focus on hip-hop.

i>Mos Def plays EarthLink Live Thurs., Dec. 16, 8 p.m. $32.50-$34.