Words By Jesse H.
“Tonight at noon watch a bad moon rising.
Identities in crisis and conflict diamonds.
Blinding, staring at lights til they crying,
Bone gristle popping from continuous grinding…
Grapes of wrath in a shapely glass,
Ingredients influential on your ways and acts.
Zero tolerance to raise the tax.
It don’t matter how your gates is latched,
You ain’t safe from the danger, jack.
Made away before they made the map,
Or a GPS, this is D-E-F.”
Maybe I’m still buzzing off that new-album high. Maybe I’m still affected because I just saw him in concert less than a month ago. Or maybe I’m just blatantly biased because I think he’s the greatest talent of his generation. But, I really feel Mos Def wrote one of the finest verses of the decade with his guest spot on the title track off Rising Down (with profuse apologies to Black Thought, undoubtedly the disc’s best).
Working as a modern-day Tom Joad, Mos addresses the grittiness of an industry (and really a country) that’s falling apart at the seams. His level of description and detail are head and shoulders above any other emcee putting out work today (that bone gristle line still gives me chills on every listen), and his exile away from Hip- Hop and his subsequent foray into film make this verse all the more important.
His hint at a comeback offers hope in a Hip-Hop landscape that is admittedly pretty bleak. His out-of-the-blue concert last month with Jay Electronica was the first indicator, where he promised the crowd that a new album was on the way.
But it’s this verse that really extends that promise to the masses that couldn’t make the trip to New York, and that’s where he seems to accept that his talent is necessary in such a dark time. The urgency of his spot on “Two Words,” is gone, and the hope and jubilance of his flow on Black On Both Sides seem but a distant memory, haze in the wind. But it doesn’t matter. The verse serves as a brilliant extension from last year’s bizarrely overlooked “Fake Bonanza,” which traced the outlines of the industry’s woes. This verse however colors the portrait in, and in doing so, sets the ominous tone that makes Rising Down such a notable release.
Mos’ position in Hip-Hop is ever evolving and that’s something that he really seems to strive for. Right now, being the Steinbeck in the Great Depression of rap doesn’t seem like such a bad spot for him.