Confession: the first time I heard The New Danger, I actually had to burrow through my bag for my iPod just to make sure I had the right album on shuffle: Limp Bizkit, is that you? I mean, I like to credit the Mighty Mos for single-handedly bringing back my interest in rap—he was one of the few who picked up what others had long ago lost in tired recycled racket and rhymes, perpetuating misogyny and materialism with the R&B girl du jour purring the hook. But the noise on tracks such as "Zimzallabim" and "Freaky Black Greetings" only disinterred disorienting memories of chocolate starfish and hot dog-flavored beverages.
The Brooklyn native had previously expressed his thoughts on the true origins of rock on the aptly titled track "Rock N Roll" off his 1999 solo debut, Black on Both Sides: "I said, Elvis Presley ain't got no soul/Chuck Berry is rock and roll/You may dig on the Rolling Stones/But they ain't come up with that style on they own." The final one minute and 18 seconds was the real blow, where he urged listeners to "Get yo' punk ass up!" followed by an almost sarcastic Korn-inspired no-holds-barred freak-out. Personally, I thought it was real clever at the time. When you do things ironically, you see, it's totally okay!
Fastforward to spring 2005, where that same feeling of dread and/or repulsion brought on by the rap-rock sound of The New Dangerwas revived when I witnessed Mos selling Envoy Denalis for GMC on television—was this really the same man who had blasted large corporations for the imprudent abuse of the world's natural resources in "New World Water"?
Being accused of "selling out" is an issue that's bound to come with fame for artists of any genre. You know what I'm talking about. Like how No Doubt was once considered a ska band? When Weezer sold their souls to the Carson Daly generation with the Green Album? Or Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" being used in commercials for the controversy-riddled Kaiser Permanente?
Still, all instances of apparent hypocrisy aside, Mos remains one of hip-hop's most talented MCs, rapping about real "bigger picture" issues. Because of his mass exposure, whether taking on film roles starring opposite Bruce Willis (16 Blocks, which is in postproduction), guest-starring on Chappelle's Show or hosting HBO's weekly spoken word program Def Poetry, Mos has the rare opportunity to propagate vital messages to mainstream audiences, as he did with his sticking-it-to-the-man response concerning the aftermath of Katrina with "Dollar Day for New Orleans (Katrina Clap)": "Don't talk about it," he urges at the end, "be a part of it."
However, while Mos' intention of retrieving rock from bands such as, funnily enough, Limp Bizkit (as he specified in a 2004 Los Angeles Times interview) is admirable, his rock-rap fusion tracks kick up some thick toxic gas around the few shining beacons of light on The New Danger, such as "Sex, Love, and Money" and "Close Edge." But the Mighty Mos has, for the most part, always managed to juggle that infernal struggle between substance and sound. Maybe I can forgive the man for a mosh pit or two.
MOS DEF AND TALIB KWELI WITH JEAN GRAE AND PHAROAHE MONCH AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES ANAHEIM, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-2583; WWW.HOB.COM/ANAHEIM. FRI., 6 & 10:30 P.M. $40-$45. ALL AGES.