After his patchy 2004 release, The New Danger, this remains the definitive Mos Def album: a towering achievement by a unique artist whose appeal stretches way beyond the boundaries of rap and hip-hop. Painted from a rich and diverse musical palette, Black on Both Sides simply dazzles at every turn. It eschews the overly slick production and the cloying references to guns and b*tches usually associated with the genre, and instead focusses its attention on themes of a rather more universal nature. On 'Rock `N' Roll', for example, Mos seeks to redress the balance in the collective consciousness of the music buying public ("You may dig on the Rolling Stones, but everything they did they stole") while on `New World Water' he reflects lucidly on that most precious commodity, otherwise known as H2O.
As a whole, BoBS is an intelligent, understated oeuvre - but it is not without bite; see, notably, the aforementioned `Rock `N' Roll', `Know That' (my personal favourite track, featuring long-time partner-in-rhyme, Talib Kweli) and `Mr Nigga', in which Mos deals a deft blow to institutionalized racism with lines about amusing encounters with first-class air stewardesses.
Soothing, inspiring, and empowering, Black on Both Sides is that rare thing in music: an album to suit any mood. Definitely one of my top 10 records of all time...