In news which is guaranteed to send the more discerning end of the underground hip-hop spectrum into a cognac-swirling frenzy, Black Thought of Philadelphia’s legendary Roots crew is forming a formidable alliance with the closest a beat junkie can get to the embodiment of Hendrix, Danger Mouse. It seems wild that these two have never collaborated before, given their propensity towards the vintage, both in attitude and style. Although, as there has never been a collaborative album between these two before, and there is one due for release, have they not just provided the best argument for the future over the past? A conundrum indeed, and one that is given its first clue in the video for the first single, “No Gold Teeth.”
Sometimes a team-up between artists can throw out a few curveballs. The only curveball in “No Gold Teeth” is how perfectly the song lives up to listeners’ expectations. Black Thought has always been the emcee’s emcee, but in the last 5 years he seems to have gone on an unbeatable tear, seemingly in an effort to indelibly cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats, and it’s worked. He’s in the exact same zone here, unleashing 2 straight minutes of relentless, intricate bars, scorching the current crop and any nearby. You could take the gold teeth to be a metaphor for extraneous distractions, in this case meaning “No Hooks.” He lays out the life and mindset behind the ceaseless hustle in vivid detail, showing the unshakeable ambition and drive which continues to propel his art.
“I can't stop, if I don't work then I won't eat
Time keeps running like a river, it don't cease
In the mind of a super n**** it's no peace
Can't stop running like I'm ducking from police, stop
Cooley High, they tryin' do me like Cochise
The flow so obese, it's springing a slow leak
I keep a crowd satisfied, bringing 'em cold heat
I'm gratified, winning, bling bling and no gold teeth”
Danger Mouse, in his first purely hip-hop material since his Danger Doom album with the late MF DOOM in 2005, throws down a groove like time is a relative concept. Loose drums are scattered around psychedelic guitar licks, with some chugging organs and vocal soul samples thrown in to thicken the broth. The video fits the artistic sensibilities of the duo, showing the lines being delivered to the camera by a series of abstract, superimposed images. It is a suitably high-end aesthetic, one sure to have the turtleneck hip-hop crowd nodding their approval violently, designer frames flying everywhere in unprecedented scenes.
It may be premature to expect this album to save hip-hop, but we should expect it regardless. Pressure creates diamonds, as they say. Danger Mouse’s esoteric soul, finely tuned after decades of experimentation, laced with the maverick flow and devastating insight of Black Thought is like something out of a hip-hop purist’s fever dream. They will play the album while commenting angrily about Tekashi 69 on social media, achieving peak existence. The forthcoming album, Cheat Codes, will be released on August 12 and is slated to feature A$AP Rocky, Raekwon, Joey Bada$$ and Michael Kiwanuka, as well as a posthumous feature from DOOM himself. Hip-hop’s redemption is upon us.