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Danger Mouse and Black Thought - Cheat Codes (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 August 2022 Written by Tom Morgan

Photo: Shervin Lainez

In hip hop, there’s a tendency for critics to value dense musical experimentation and lofty themes above all else. The most well-received rap albums of this year, such as those released by Kendrick Lamar and Billy Woods, are challenging, eclectic works, defined by grand ambitions and demanding ideas.

‘Cheat Codes’ is a more modest but no less brilliant proposition. The debut full-length collaboration from producer Danger Mouse and The Roots’ Black Thought, this record has been in the works for over a decade. Various successes got in the way, postponing the much-anticipated team-up.

Fortunately, ‘Cheat Codes’ is more than worth the wait. These 14 tracks are an unqualified success, combining into an effortlessly soulful work that overflows with charisma and charm. 

A modern take on traditional conscious rap, the album possesses the subgenre’s easy-going resplendence, along with its emotional and spiritual intelligence, and this casual profundity generates some of Black Thought’s best moments. 

The Michael Kiwanuka-featuring Aquamarine is wise and insightful, while closer Viola And Lupitas is a cinematic rendering of life in all its multifaceted glory. Danger Mouse bolsters these cuts with immense flair, from the chest-shaking bassline of No Gold Teeth to the jazzy flourishes of Identical Deaths.

However, what makes this truly irresistible is its wealth of brilliant guest features. Raekwon’s unmistakable flow sends The Darkest Part into the stratosphere, Run The Jewels unleash their trademark verbal violence on the aggressive Strangers, while the late MF Doom makes an eerie cameo on the tranquil, mysterious Belize.

‘Cheat Codes’ is a small miracle of an album. It’s as uncomplicated and light on its feet as it is passionate and perceptive. Few hip hop albums released this year have been this well-crafted, and none have been so purely entertaining.


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