Released: 25th October 1999.
Mos Def made his introduction to the rap world in 1998 when he and Talib Kweli formed the group Black Star, a group that instantly separated themselves from the rest of the rap game and formed their own identity with thought provoking rhymes, original beats and strong MC skills. On "Black On Both Sides", Mos Def doesn't really stray that far away from his Black Star persona, his rhymes are still socially conscious, his beats are still original and he is still a very clever MC but he does show us that he is also very versatile.
He shows us early on that his skills are sharp, on "Hip Hop", where he delivers two verses about his entire perspective on music, both what he is proud of and his criticisms about it. Next is "Love," where he professes the real passion he has for the music. Then there's the first single "Ms. Fat Booty," where Mos displays his story telling skills, with a clever song about a fine woman who seduced him with her looks and than played him by making him care about her and cheating on him. That coupled with the banging Ayatollah beat make it one of the album's best songs.
"Speed Law," has another good beat and then things speed up again on "Do It Now," where Mos and Busta Rhymes trade verses back and forth over a bass-heavy beat that will make your neck snap. "Know That" has Mos teaming up with Black Star group mate, Talib Kweli, as they both spit verses over another phat Ayatollah beat. On "Brooklyn", a track with a fascinating beat, Mos gives us an introspective look at his home through the sharp and vivid imagery displayed in his lyrics and than at the end of the song Mos rips an amazing freestyle over the beat for Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya."
On the DJ Premier produced "Mathematics", Mos Def speaks on a wide variety of subjects by cleverly using math has a way of fusing it all together. He gets very socially conscious on songs like "New World Water", where he attacks water industry for various reasons, "Mr. Ni**a" featuring Q-Tip, which is about society being racist against rappers, even though they are rich and famous, and on the aforementioned "Mathematics", where he goes after the prison system for its injustices against black people.
He also shows experimentation on songs like "Umi Says," which isn't even really a rap song but more of a jazz song. "Rock N Roll" is more of a rock song. "Climb" with Vinia Mojica is also more of a jazz song and the last track "May-December," is a nice instrumental that was produced by 88 Keys and Mos.
"Black On Both Sides" proves that Mos Def is original, creative, diverse, smart, and skilled all at the same time. This is an album that should be heard by every real hip hop fan.