Black On Both Sides is the debut album from the iconic New York rapper, Mos Def. Released in 1999; the long player received critical acclaim becoming a seminal album in the discography of the hip-hop messiah, as well as in the history of the genre itself. On Friday the 21st of November, Mos Def will perform the album in full to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its release, alongside other classics from throughout his career, at the O2 Academy Leeds.
Not only did the LP in question differ from other rap albums of its time by utilising jazz and soul inspired synths, sullied beats and live instruments spanning from saxophones to conga percussion; Black On Both Sides was an intellectual collection of tracks that defied to conform to the suit of gangsta rap that was rife during this time. Rapping about socio-economic problems in New World Water, racial prejudice in Mr. N**ga and the lifestyle of the threatening gangster stereotype in Got, Mos Def produced a realistic, inspiring album that paved a way for politically infallible music in hip-hop.
During the decade before the release of Black On Both Sides, in the time of black liberation movements against gang culture and racial inequality, groups of DJs were partying in their gangs turf as an alternative to violence. A key member in this movement was Afrika Bambaataa, who will be appearing as a special guest during Mos Def’s anniversary show, during his own History of Hip Hop Tour. As the birth giver to Universal Zulu Nation, a group of politically aware DJs, rappers and other creative artists, Bambaataa was another rapper who did great favours for racial equality, the spread of hip-hop culture and also musical innovation through his use of electronic sounds and beats with synthesisers and the 808 on fames tracks like Planet Rock and Looking For The Perfect Beat.
Afrika Bambaataa will appear as a special guest during Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides anniversary date at the O2 Academy in Leeds, a night welcoming 2 true icons of hip-hop music. This one cannot be missed by any fan of the sound.
Words by Josh Plews
Images courtesy of godermag, hiphoplegacies and conversationsabouther.