Black Thought x Danger Mouse

Black Thought continues to showcase his stellar penmanship and cement his place as a top tier lyricist with his latest album ‘Cheat Codes‘. Teamed up with the underrated but never duplicated Danger Mouse, this duo creates one of the best hip hop albums of 2022, and they do it their way, feeding off of each other to continue to push the soundscape of hip hop AND ensure lyrics are still front and centre of the hip hop fans cerebrum. This is Black Thought’s best project outside of the incredible catalogue he has helped amass with The Roots, and while we have been treated to a three-EP series with the ‘Streams Of Thought‘ projects, THIS is the album that is really going to cement his place as a solo artist and across all the varied pockets of the hip hop community.

Having Danger Mouse produce the album also adds to the allure of the release. We haven’t heard Mouse produce an entire hip hop album since the iconic collaboration with the late-great MF Doom ‘Danger Doom‘, so the anticipation is there, and once you press play and the sound penetrates your eardrums, you KNOW you’re in for something special. Two masters of their craft, teaming up to create classic art and in a manner that is so genuine and authentic, you can FEEL it through the speakers or headphones. It feels as though the incredible freestyles, the EP series and the recent guest spots on bigger name records have all been leading us to this point.

There has been much discussion around the mix of the album, and there are plenty of people more expert in the field to speak on this, but for me, for the most part I really didn’t have much of an issue with it – speakers or headphones. However, on occassion I feel that Black Thought’s voice was a little ‘lost’ within the mix – whether that was done intentionally to give that lo-fi, grainy feel or not I’m not sure, but it’s not enough to detract from the overall listening experience for me, however I understand the varied commentary around it.

There is an edginess to the flow of Black Thought on this project and I really dig the direction he has taken. Yes, he is still a lyrical beast and his flow is sublime, but this album really starts to give him that ‘street’ cred that isn’t really associated with the uber-lyrical, thoughtful and insightful rhyming he’s done until now. The guest spots from artists like Conway the Machine, Joey Bada$$ and Raekwon also help with this, but it’s also the content that Thought is touching on, more street corner poetry rather than rhymes written from the windowsill. This continued evolution of the emcee is another reason why this album really works well and pushes those boundaries yet again.

An incredible project, it isn’t without the odd ‘misstep’…. the MF DOOM verse was crazy and a welcomed edition as a hip hop head however being a posthumous verse, the context is slightly off making the premise of the song feel a little awkward. There are also a few mini-moments where it feels as though Thought takes the foot off the pedal to allow others to nearly match him on the mic, which for an emcee as revered as BT, just sits weirdly! And of course as mentioned above, the mix. At times, Black Thought feels ‘distant’ from the track due to the mix. But let’s face it – this is nitpicking because the album is marvellous.

Bangers: The Darkest Part, Close to Famous, Identical Deaths, Aquamarine, Strangers.

Score: 9.5 / 10. It’s a masterpiece no doubt, and we expect greatness from the greats. Black Thought brings it with a masterclass of lyricism, wordplay, cadence and flow. Danger Mouse mixes a range of samples and loops that range from soulful to jazzy to straight up dusty, basement boom bap and always provides a brilliant score for the bars to beat up. The features were great (Raekwon’s sixteen took me back to that old school Wu we fell in love with, and RTJ just never EVER miss) and the album is cohesive, thoughtful and delivered exceptionally.

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About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!

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