Danger Mouse & Black Thought
For his first straightforward hip-hop album since the days of producing MF DOOM and deconstructing JAY-Z, Cheat Codes sees musician/mixologist Danger Mouse fill the house with lush, tense arrangements and cushiony, snapping beats in the service of lyricist and microphone expert Black Thought. Thought, The Roots’ mouthpiece and Jimmy Fallon’s joking associate on The Tonight Show, has been taking a break from his usuals by acting on the off-Broadway stage and (finally) dropping long-promised solo works in the guise of three EPs in the last four years.
It's not as if Danger Mouse acts exclusively in a hip-hop manner, whatever that manner could be. The producer/composer opens up a can of old soul, pours out some classic Gwen McCrae melody, and offers the wide berth of “Sometimes” to Black Thought for the rapper to drive his frenzied freestyles through. And freestyling—uncontained, unrestrained, refrain after refrain, verse followed by subverse—is when BT is at his rip-roaring best. While the cocksure poetry of “No Gold Teeth,” the awkward romanticism of “Love Without Sex,” and the moody prose of “The Darkest Thought” offer Black Thought greater insight into Danger Mouse’s provocative sounds—and vice versa—little prepares the listener for what happens on “Strangers.”
Here, with guest features from A$AP Rocky and the two voices behind Run the Jewels—Killer Mike, El-P—you’d think that the freestyling Thought would get cramped, or that D-Mouse’s guests would get nudged out. Such is the open-ended R&B and plush, pliable rhythms of its producer that each individual gets his say, his state of mind put forth, and his fears assuaged, all while allowing Black Thought just that much more chatter than the rest of the team.
Not sure how the pairing of Danger Mouse and Black Thought got together for Cheat Codes, but here’s to making sure it happens again.