The power of two minds that collaborate to become better than a singular is often a common idea in hip-hop, some of the most outstanding records come from a joint collection of two heavyweights.
In terms of conscious and acid styles, Danger Mouse and Black Thought are always in the running for being on cutting the margin lines for being at the top of the mind. Cruising from the beauty that was The Roots on Black Thought’s repertoire and Danger Mouse’s production styles that touched everyone from Gorillaz to MF DOOM and even the Black Keys.
Grazing in eras of technicality, the efforts from Danger Mouse and Black Thought on their 2022 release Cheat Codes is this Life Aquatic of fantastic color and vibration while giving exploration and the ability to sculpt authentic relationships in a digital world.
The lush and conquering sounds that Danger Mouse creates for Black Thought could stand as a movie score for Blaxploitation films where the stance comes in a form of heavy bass strings and a boom-bap trilby to fit on the cap.
Cheat Codes is blending to be nearly a jazz record at points and the opening track, “Sometimes” is able to transfer the energy of funk and gospel rhythms into this full-fledge fist of lifted bumps. It is the perfect style for Black Thought to take charge into the soft red and blue lights that fall over their face in this neon city on Cheat Codes.
Black Thought’s initial moments on Cheat Codes almost paint this dystopian scrawl of a city crushed by chaos and this oppressing nature. He begins by describing, “Prisoners of Azkaban thinkin’ of a master plan. Images of Grandeur by Jamel Shabazz, Dapper Dan. Clap your hands whether you in Paterson or Pakistan.”
As production ramps, Black Thought peels back their curtain and continues, “Early African or European, which was more supreme. The visions vary, this shit get scary, inform your team. My dignitary consigliere is more a Deen, my skin tone is aubergine, I’m a war machine.”
The power that comes from Black Thought isn’t going to be entirely laid with Danger Mouse’s instrumentation, but it doesn’t hurt in any way to have these primarily 60s, and 70s soul samples layered throughout the record.
In a near-perfect meet-up, the track “Because” is one of the strongest performances on both Black Thought and Danger Mouse’s side. The instrumentation on “Because” is warped to a trip through town squares similar to the center of a city but seeing everything rotating at a snail’s pace. Colors blur, voices fade, and the overpowering vocalization from Black Thought is instead a familiar face in a crowd captured in time.
The simple use of melting guitars turn heads to the drum kit where Joey Bada$$, Russ, and Dylan Cartlidge feature. The red and green eyes from the cover pierce and create this gaze that creates pressure on the listener, “Because” backs the pressure off and becomes more friendly.
Later, “Identical Deaths” flashes into the frame and transposes the crowded streets into something more personal and individualized. While the verse from Black Thought is much shorter in comparison to some of the other tracks on Cheat Codes, the instrumentation from Danger Mouse on the outro of the track buries the listener in airport terminals as golden hour sets.
“Identical Deaths” is almost a two-part masterpiece that combines one section of links to the mantra where a reprise at the track’s midsection repeats, “Anger keep out, danger, keep out, danger.”
The instrumental picks up to be a sample of help-desk vocalization as the percussion pours over the audience. Melting like a Dali painting, “Identical Deaths” is one of the final gazes into a stroll through the midnight-kissed streets as those same beginning neons dissolve out to the now tame metropolis.