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Mos Def - True Magic (Geffen)

Mo' Magic, No Problems

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By Ivan Rott

Mos Def - True Magic (Geffen)

Mos Def - True Magic © Geffen

Hip-hop’s “Renaissance man” takes a brief departure from his acting roles and returns with Tru3 Magic, his third (that’s why there’s a ‘3’ in ‘true’) solo album. Always testing the boundaries of hip-hop while still embodying the notion of “keepin’ it real”, Mos has been a staple in the conscious/lyrical scene since his days with Rawkus. It was in 2004, however, that Mos was met with both praise and (mostly) criticism for stylistically “branching out” on his ambitious sophomore album, The New Danger, a divergence from standard hip-hop protocol.

Black on Both Sides Pt. 2?

It’s essentially impossible to recapture the same winning elements of a classic debut album. Just ask Nas, Jay-Z, and even Snoop Doog. The curse lives on, as Tru3 Magic simply lacks the same spunk and liveliness of Black on Both Sides, the Black Dante’s landmark solo effort. A prerequisite for any true hip-hop fan’s music collection, Black on Both Sides had the listener irresistibly hooked and bobbing his/her head nonstop for 70+ minutes. Tru3 Magic produces a similar effect, yet sporadically. With Mos Def stepping halfway out of Geffen Records’ door, Tru3 Magic is a noticeably rushed project (even the cover art seems rushed). Nevertheless, Mos still manages to pull off a commendable album with plenty of shining moments.

Conceptual Masterpieces

Although Tru3 Magic lacks the cohesiveness of a consistent album, it is nonetheless laced with a diverse mix of meaningful tracks that seem to rely on their own individual greatness; this is further highlighted by the fact that the album features no verses from guest emcees: Black Dante can still do it on his own. On "Undeniable," Mos rocks the house, flowing harmoniously over a funky guitar beat. On "There Is a Way," mighty Mos smoothly croons a positive, uplifting message: “don’t give up, don’t give in.”

Mos shines the light on negativity in society as well, tackling violence amongst the youth on "Murder of A Teenage Life," a bass-heavy beat accompanied by haunting keys, in which he murmurs: “Even the warmth of a mother’s arms/ Cannot keep a son from harm/ And standing where the gun was drawn.” And of course, it’s impossible to overlook “Dollar Day," Mos’ tribute to the Katrina victims. Mos not only reps New Orleans harder than any other N.O. emcee, but turns a Juvenile song (pun intended) into nothing short of a sophisticated political outcry. The brief story of the hurricane survivor that precedes the track is equally appealing with a touch of bittersweet witticism. Mos later performs a semi-cover of GZA’s “Liquid Swords” on “Crime & Medicine”; Mos toasts The Genius, reciting some of his lines, then proceeds to flow and adlib on his own.

On "Hip-Hop Is Dead"

Mos Def uses “Fake Bonanza" to question “fakeness” in society, while seemingly siding with Nas on the Hip-Hop is Dead discussion as he lectures: “Hip-hop, modern time/ Flossy and raw and so self-absorbed/ Immature/ I can’t remember being this bored.” Imagine 'Nas & Mos Def ‘06' being printed onto a bumper sticker.

The Bottom Line on Tru3 Magic

The most consistent aspect of Black Dante’s “Magic” is mos’ definitely his sense of maturity. Let’s face it: Mos Def belongs to the “old school” of hip-hop, and like Talib Kweli, KRS-One, Rakim and Nas, he's looked upon as a “teacher.” If hip-hop and politics converged, Mos would hold a considerable amount of authority. That said, it’s important that emcees make use of their valuable clout; thankfully, Mos Def steps up to the plate.

Though Tru3 Magic’s highlights are a bit sporadic and at times a bit too vague, the message is still there. It’s amazing how even on an “off-day”, Mos can still represent hip-hop to the fullest.

Top Tracks

  • "There Is a Way"
  • "Undeniable"
  • "Crime & Medicine"
  • "Murder of a Teenage Life"
  • "Perfect Timing"

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  5. 2006
  6. Mos Def - Tru3 Magic - CD Review of Mos Def's True Magic album

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