If you think hip hop is all murdered samples and lyrics about money and hos, then Mos Def could teach you a thing or two. Almost as respected for his acting career as for his musical one (you may have seen him rock'n'rolling as Chuck Berry in Cadillac Records), the Brooklyn MC is now on solo album number four. Sure, the decision to release 'The Ecstatic' via T-Shirt in the U.S. was something of a gimmicky move, but give it a listen and you might just forgive him.
Symptomatic of their genre, these songs are bass heavy, and, on tracks like the standout 'Quiet Dog Bite Hard', prioritise rhythm over melody. Musical styles adopted include disco, electro, Spanish folk, reggae and a substantial amount of Indian traditional music, while quotes from Malcolm X and Femi Kuti give a sense of insight and profundity, whether you agree with their sentiment or not.
A plethora of producers and guest appearances surely add to the sense of diversity here. The Ruler raps over the sultry 60s Bond style 'Auditorium' with its haphazard French excerpts, while former Black Star bandmate Talib Kweli joins him on slick soul number 'History', produced by the late and highly influential hip hop producer J Dilla.
'The Ecstatic' can be challenging in places, but Mos Def always knows not to push it too far. Plus, it's the very thing that makes him stand above his piers.