mos def – black on both sides (1999)

Prince’s wild overpromising on what the year 1999 might hold had given way to stark outlooks of either hope or destruction. After deaths on the East and West coasts, hip-hop was embarking on an ego-led, bustling bling age. Between two fractious eras, Mos Def collated everything he saw and experienced in the capricious world and spat some of the most important bars ever written. Each beat is a chariot that Mos has mastered. There’s a concise rhythm to Mighty Mos’ lyricism, a delicate wit, and a realist weight. It would actually be unreasonable to ask so much of a record, never mind having it delivered so smoothly.

30/30

A favourite: ‘New World Water’

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