Friday, July 3, 2009

Mos Def - The Ecstatic

-Just so everyone knows, this will be the last post here. Due to various reasons, this blog has lost its steam and Get Legs is folding. Thanks everyone who took the time to read our work- Pete D

Studio LP
Released June 9th

If everyone could have just forgotten about the years between the release of Mos Def’s acclaimed Black on Both Sides and the release of The Ecstatic – a period that saw the flops The New Danger and True Magic – Mos, and “alternative” hip-hop, might have been better for it. The two releases after his solo debut showed Black Dante indulging in the worst, most extreme of his experimental tendencies, and lacked the passionate delivery of his early work. The fact that one of its biggest stars was allowing his creativity to run his rap career off its rails suggested that, despite its positives, alternative hip-hop lacked the consistent appeal of commercial rap.

For those that followed Mos Def’s career, The Ecstatic should seem like the album Mos Def has wanted to make for almost a decade. This album has a unique, experimental sound, borrowing heavily from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, it sports a shortened roster of producers – seven producers spread over sixteen tracks and five of them produce at least two tracks – and Mos’s more concentrated lines leave it a focused effort. What seems to annoy critics most about this album is that Mos neglected to satisfy the listeners looking for something politically charged. Instead, this album’s perspective is set on descriptions of American cities and foreign lands without providing explicit political messages.

The album explodes open with “Supermagic,” an Oh No-produced track laced with wailing guitars and women’s voices that sound like they come from a Bollywood musical. This track folds into Chad Hugo’s menacing “Twilight Speedball,” complete with bellowing horns and tip-toeing xylophone.

With the momentum built, the next producer to step in is Madlib, the star player on the Stones Throw Record label and the man who could be considered the musical foundation of this album. His first track “Auditorium” begins with Middle Eastern strings slinking under Mos’s laid back flow, fading in and then returning for a verse from Slick Rick. The two guest spots Mos picked for the album are perfect – Talib Kweli steps in later to do justice to the label “Black Star reunion” – and the Ruler’s lines, describing the feeling of alienation of a U.S. soldier in Iraq, do not disappoint. Mos’s light touch in choosing features really leaves listeners with the feeling that the album is well-rounded, bringing just enough distinct flavor to keep the album sounding fresh.

Another way the album succeeds as a unified whole is in its balance between extremes. For every Madlib track with its layered samples, imported instruments, and unhinged song structure, there’s a beat from Preservation that condenses every sound tight and focused. Even in individual songs Mos and his producers toy with the tension between chaotic and ordered styles, such as on Madlib’s “Pretty Dancer,” or his brother Oh No’s “Pistola,” where Mos spits sharp verses in between drowsy choruses. Stones Throw artists have often successfully experimented with this jumbled style of making songs and it seems that the brothers Otis and Michael do well fitting The Ecstatic in the same mold.

Noticeable deviations from the organically developed sound hurt the album, but the only major sin is committed by Mr. Flash on “Life in Marvelous Times.” The record on its own has nothing wrong with it, and it spotlights one of Mos’s strongest verses.

The windows on the av' look like sad eyes.
They fix a sharp gaze on you when you pass by
And if you care to stand, you can see 'em cry,
You can watch them scowl, feel them prowl
While they steady sizing every inch about you.
Fast math, measuring what you amount to:
The laughter, the screams,
The number rolls, the Song of Songs, the book of dreams.
Ends don't meet where the arms can't reach.
Mean streets, even when it's free it ain't cheap.
Ongoing saga, terminal diagnosis,
Basic survival requires super-heroics.
No space in the budget for a cape
That's when you gotta fly by night to save the day.
Crash landings routinely happen,
Some survive, others never rise from the ashes.
Watching asphalt and observing the Sabbath
Creates an ecstatic and there you have it.

Unfortunately, the synthetic sound of this track is jarring, too extreme of a contrast with the continuity of the rest of the album, and the overall product would have been better if Mos had discarded the track or used a different beat.

After the album starts to wind down with “Roses,” on which Mos does more singing than rapping, Kweli comes in with Dante on “History.” As good as Mos Def’s lines are Kweli’s verse over the Dilla track is what ensures a dope record.

I was born in the decade of decadence
Where they worship what they have.
Ford was president – do the math.
War was ending when the North Vietnamese
Stormed the city of Saigon.
We was like "bye," we was gone.
Let bygones by bygones
I'm gon' spread love its the Brooklyn way.
We "Get it Poppin'" like a hit chorus
The flow is historic. They can't get rid of us,
Ubiquitous, and we lay the law like Leviticus.
Ten years ago we made history so they missin' us.

The various faults shouldn’t be overlooked on The Ecstatic. Mos lacks in the lyrics department on some of the tracks, especially compared to his early work, and the album’s forty-five minute length is a little disappointing. Personally, the fact that the album got released on vinyl as a double LP is perplexing as hell. Still, the whole of the album possesses undeniable artistic quality and it shows a rejuvenated Mos Def ready to jump back into hip-hop. The closing track, built off a musical theme from Madlib’s Bossa nova duo Jackson Conti, has such high energy that it will leave listeners hoping Mos’s next (rap) project will carry the same spirit with it.

Beats: 8 Rhymes: 7 Overall: 7.5

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's "Fitted of the Week"

FITTED HAWAII continues to kill it with their new styles coming for Summer '09, but being that I am a chess-head trying to promote in Boston, I give the space to Johnny Cupcake's newest line, and their first fitteds, coming out for this summer. In addition to the grey chess-board piece shown, they are putting out a grey wool "JC" cap, brown and gray tweed caps, and a slick multi-colored tweed hat that strikes resemblance to Eight-panels or Gatsby caps.

The full set of release photos and more information are available at STRICTLY FITTEDS.
The website is JOHNNY CUPCAKES.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brooklyn Bodega Round-Up

Obviously, I messed up on the countdown and missed the last day. Shit happens, and I'd rather be catching some great hip-hop than talking about it. The day I missed will not be made up, but a proper summary with videos and pictures is in the works.

For people who missed it, Brooklyn Bodega was June 20th in Empire Fulton Ferry State Park. Despite the nasty weather, the show went off and the organizers were able to fit a crazy amount of performers into a short amount of time and even had some special guests.

Here's some highlights from Death By Electro Shock

Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival 09 from Death by Electric Shock on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Days to Brooklyn Bodega Festival - Day 9 [Grand Puba]

Real name Maxwell Dixon, Grand Puba has been hustling to gain his reputation in hip-hop since starting the group Masters of Ceremony and releasing with them their first and last album Dynamite in 1988. After Masters of Ceremony disbanded, Grand Puba birthed the impactful alternative hip-hop group Brand Nubian in New Rochelle with Sadat X and Lord Jamar. This group would also prove to be a short venture for Puba, who was pressured to leave the group by Jamar and Sadat soon after the release of their acclaimed debut One for All in 1990.

Puba went on to kick off a solo career with the album Reel to Reel. This was followed by 2000 and then Understand This. The last flopped, and it would be more than seven years before Puba got back into the game, set to release his fourth studio LP in late June called Retroactive on the independent powerhouse Babygrande Records. In addition, the original members of Brand Nubian reformed and have continued producing socially conscious and politally charged hip-hop.

The video has Grand Puba and Lord Jamar talking about the good old days of hip-hop that cats are going to be revisting for a while. The two links are for new cuts, the first off Puba's new album, the second off of Sadat X's upcoming album Brand New Bein'.

Grand Puba - I See Dead People [f Rell, Lord Jamar]
Sadat X - Brand New Bein' [f Lord Jamar, Grand Puba]

10 Days to Brooklyn Bodega Festival - Day 8 [Styles P]

Bringing a more gritty style of music to the Brooklyn Bodega is Styles P. Along with fellow Yonkers, NY emcees Jadakiss and Sheek Louch, Styles P makes up the hardcore rap group D-Block, formerly known as the L.O.X. Styles is also a successful solo artist, having put out three LPs on top of his work on D-Block's three (soon to be four) studio albums. Styles P will definitely be the street's answer to the more alternative acts on the festival's bill, but he already has collaborations under his belt with the other acts such as Pharoahe Monch and DJ Premier. One of these collaborations is below, Pharoahe Monch and Style P's "My Life." The site is

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

10 Days to Brooklyn Bodega Festival - Day 7 [The Knux]

The brothers Lindsey - Kentrell aka Krispy Kream and Alvin aka Rah Almillio - make up the Knux. Originally from N'Orleans, LA, after being displaced by Katrina, these two made their way into the hip-hop scene in Los Angeles that is developing outside of the influence of the once-commercially viable gangsta rap stage. Raucous and bouncy, the Knux, which is short for the Knuckle Heads, are gaining notoriety for their intense live shows and this year grace the stage with the rest of the main-stagers. The link here redirects to the official video for their song Fire, off their debut "Remind Me in 3 Days..." At the Knux request, their videos cannot be embedded. The website - oh fish ull - is

Monday, June 15, 2009

10 Days to Brooklyn Bodega Festival - Day 6 [Smif-n-Wessun]

Here's an update. Due to a lack of funds, the festival will not be setting up and running a second stage. However, the second stage artists will still perform, beginning at noon, before the main stage artists. Today's post starts up with the main stage artists proper.


Things get complicated in the Boot Camp Clik. The Clik is headed by Brooklyn rapper Kenyatta Blake aka Buckshot, who also heads the trio Black Moon. Apart from Buck, there is the duo Heltah Skeltah and the trio O.G.C. The last quarter is made up of Tek and Steele aka Smif-n-Wessun coming out of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

This pair has been in the game since '93, when they debuted on Black Moon's first album Enta da Stage. Their first two albums, released in 1995 and 1998, were benchmarks for hip-hop, even though they would be overshadowed by bigger acts in the New York scene. They have been working the underground, through cuts on Rawkus Records' Soundbombing and Lyricist Lounge. Now signed to the quickly growing independent monster of Duck Down Records, and sixteen years deep in the rap game, they're showing up for a set at Brooklyn Bodega. Below is a live cut at Southpaw, Brooklyn. The website is