Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides- The black man’s guide to being black by Timilehin Salu
by Rapjoint Lagos
This album is Yasiin Bey a.k.a Mos Def’s first solo body of work. It was released on October 12, 1999. The album paints a vivid picture of what it is to be black on both sides; “upper class or lower class”. It is an extensive body of Work with 17 tracks to Mos Def’s credit.
I personally enjoyyyyed listening to this album. My top picks are: Ms. Fat Booty, Fear not of Man and Mr Nigga.
If you’ve been discriminated against, been put down/written off, lost hope because of your background,played by a pretty lady, or you’re just a socially conscious person, then this is the therapy you need.
Plug in and let’s spin.
Fear Not of Man
The next time you ask yourself where hip hop is going, ask yourself where you are going, then you know where hip hop is going. Mos Def starts this song by giving a shout out to all his fans around the world and then he goes on to warn them about the coming of a new world order- the 21stCentury. He preaches that we should be better people and understand that we are valuable, not because of money or a sexy body but we are valuable because they have been created by God. Man must die so make sureyou live your life right. The song is takes a sample at one of Fela’s hit track which coincidentally is titled Fear not forman.
In Hip Hop, Mos Def takes us on a transformation journey of hip hop over the years. From when the black man was used for just cutting cotton, to where they were used for wood chopping to when they came into hip hop. He talks about the fame and influence hip hop brings with it but ends with a sad reality to the listeners- it can’t save you.
They said the goodness in life belongs to those who believe, I believe- this song showcases Mos Def’s love for hip hop and rhymes.
Ms. Fat Booty
This is my personal favorite, I lost track of how many times I replayed this song while reviewing this album. Mos Def confesses to his listeners that he was in love with a “Sharice” The track song chronicles a love interest of Mos Def that he meets and tries to ignore him. They are later introduced to each other at the club and soon get talking, drinking, touching and then bedding together. His love interest warns him that she is not one for live and disappears before he wakes up the next morning. Mos Def remains silently licking his wounds when a friend tells him, his love interest; Sharice was at a club eating out an Asian woman.
He feels himself in this album and challenges his opponents, and tells them to take a chill and he’s still the illest that they’d ever know.
Do it now ft. Busta Rhymes
Mos features Busta rhymes on this track to deliver hotsingle like a Mexican burrito- they call themselves the hottest Negroes in the United States.
Got talks about being robbed of your possession. When you wear jewelries and all the nice things on the road, that’s how you get got. When you’re from Brooklyn, there are certain things you don’t do like walk alone at night else you get ‘got’. The harder you flash, the harder you get flashed on, there’s hunger in the streets and people areready to take your bread. Stop the show off andinsensitivity before you scream “don’t get me”.
Tomorrow may never come, for you or me, life is never promised. Mos Def shows the singing side of him in UMI Says. He renders this melody from the heart. He says ‘shine your light on the world for the world to see’. In the end all he wants is black people to be free.
New World Water
On this song Mos Def curses out to companies, organizations and capitalist that have ruined the world’smost precious yet free natural resource; water. He talks about how the water is no longer safe for consumption and now cost a fortune to get. He also talks about diseases that are caused by the ingestion of this water and what this capitalist focus on is getting the cash for the people who are victims of their destruction.
Rock n Roll
In rock and roll, Mos Def traces his roots to slavery from his great grandmother who worked on the plantations to his grandmother living in the reservations. He is adescendant of the builders of your streets. In this song he makes reference to many pioneers of rock and roll music who were mainly black and argued that they are the true founders of rock and roll and not Elvis Presley – a white man who is widely recognized as the founder of rock and roll. He continually takes shade at Elvis Presley, and Kenny.G (both white) and pays tribute to pioneers of soul music, James Brown, Murdy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane etc.
He states that though they may be on the rolling stone, they nevertheless stole everything they are known for from the black music stars. He ends it with an aggressive rock and roll sound to mimic his
Know that ft. Talib Kweli
This song is the Hustlers anthem off the album. Mos Def inspires his listeners about the hard work and sweat he puts into his music. The song disses rap wannabes who just want the lime light but are not ready to put in the required work. He says “you never know when your fate gon’ switch hands, get today’s solid ground out of yesterday’s quicksand” i.e. Make best of the opportunity you get today, forget yesterday’s failure.
Climb ft. Vinia Mojica
On climb Mos Def teams up with Vinia Mojica to give a soulful rendition. He drops rap and ‘climbs’ into our souls as he says “People climbed into the night like space suits, people stomped inside the night, and stomping and stomping and stomping….. where are they going to? Whats the rush? Everybody’s in place but so out of touch”.
Brooklyn is a shout out to Mos Def’s hometown; Brooklyn. The song is divided into three parts with 3 different sides. He takes us on a tour to his town where it feels that you’re the only one with no one by your side. Nicknamed Buck town because its residents are prone to outburst at the slightest provocation. With all the dangers and atrocities that happen in Brooklyn, people still travel far and wide topay respect. He makes mention of places his listeners must visit when they come around to Brooklyn. As bad as the place may be, it has molded some of the greatest MC’s in the world.
“We all got to have, this place that we come from, the place that we come from is called home”
“We all got to have, this place that we call home, the place that we come from is called home”
Mr Nigga ft. Q Tip
If you have ever had to deal with racism or had to explain yourself to some white folks because of how you look. If you have been blocked or held up discriminatorily becauseof how you look, then this song is form you my nigga. Mr.Nigga talks about the discrimination a black man faces when he becomes successful, it examines the racial prejudice against a black man for having the same level of success as a white man. No matter how “suc-cessful” he may be, he is still seen as a “suc-spect”.
For everyone who wants to challenge Mos Def on his stance on the injustice and malignment of the blacks, be prepared because he comes with his stat and figures in Mathematics.
This track is an instrumental off the album. The title is likely a reference to Harlem Renaissance poet CounteeCullen’s poem “Incident,” The poem recalls a childhood "incident" in which the speaker's life is forever altered when another child uses a racist slur against him in public. Though the speaker saw the whole of Baltimore from May until December; of all the things that happened there, that’s all that he remembers.
As always, let me know what you think about the album in the comment section.