The Info List - Black On Both Sides

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Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
is the debut album of American rapper Mos Def, released on October 12, 1999, by Rawkus Records
Rawkus Records
and Priority Records. Prior to the album's recording, Mos Def
Mos Def
had collaborated with rapper Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli
for the duo's studio album, Mos Def
Mos Def
& Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli
Are Black Star (1998),[1] which raised high expectations for a solo effort.[2] Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
features an emphasis on live instrumentation and socially conscious lyrics.[3][4] On February 2, 2000, the album was certified Gold in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), following sales in excess of 500,000 copies.[5]


1 Music

1.1 Production 1.2 Early versions 1.3 Video

2 Reception 3 Track listing 4 Personnel 5 Charts 6 Certifications 7 References 8 External links

Music[edit] Talib Kweli
Talib Kweli
(one-half of Black Star with Mos Def), Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes are the only main rappers to be featured on the album. Kweli raps the second and final verse of "Know That", while Busta goes back and forth with Mos on "Do It Now". Q-Tip helps sing the chorus on "Mr. Nigga" but doesn't deliver a verse. The lyrics Q-Tip recites are similar to his previously released lyrics on A Tribe Called Quest's "Sucka Nigga". Vinia Mojica (who is known for singing on Native Tongues songs) also sings a duet with Mos Def
Mos Def
on the song "Climb". Production[edit] The album features a mix between established and rising producers. DJ Premier provides the instrumental track for "Mathematics". Diamond D is credited for "Hip Hop". Ali Shaheed Muhammad, known mostly as a member of A Tribe Called Quest, produced the seventh song "Got". Psycho Les of The Beatnuts
The Beatnuts
produced "New World Water" and "Rock N Roll". Jazz legend Weldon Irvine provided additional production to "Climb". Ayatollah produced "Ms. Fat Booty" and "Know That". 88-Keys produced "Love" and "Speed Law" and co-produced the instrumental outro "May–December" with Mos Def
Mos Def
himself. David Kennedy (the second swing of "Brooklyn" and "Umi Says" produced with Mos Def), Mr. Khaliyl ("Do It Now"), DJ Etch-A-Sketch ("Climb" and "Habitat"), Ge-ology (The first swing of "Brooklyn") and D. Prosper ("Mr. Nigga") round out the other contributors. Mos received production assistance on most of the album's tracks. His sole production credit comes at "Fear Not of Man", but he provided additional production to four tracks ("Hip Hop", "Rock N Roll", "Climb" and "Mr. Nigga") and co-produced three ("Umi Says", "Brooklyn" and "May–December"). Early versions[edit] On the song "Brooklyn", a three-movement piece dedicated to Mos's neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, Mos rhymes three verses over three different beats. The first beat is an original composition produced by Ge-ology, while the second verse is a re-creation[clarification needed] of Smif-N-Wessun's "Home Sweet Home" and the last verse is set to the instrumental track of The Notorious B.I.G.'s 1995 single "Who Shot Ya?". Originally, Mos rhymed three complete verses over Ge-ology's musical composition, now referred to as the first movement of the song. On a later version, the first and third verses are set to the instrumentals of two other 1995 New York rap hits, "Incarcerated Scarfaces" by Raekwon
as well as "Give Up the Goods (Just Step)" by Mobb Deep, respectively. The "Who Shot Ya?" verse, with the same vocal take on the released version, is placed in the middle. Mos Def
Mos Def
sings his own interpretation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Under the Bridge". Video[edit] Mos Def
Mos Def
was involved with two videos for Umi Says. One was more traditional, while the second one came when Nike and Jordan Brand chose Umi Says as its theme song for its Much Respect series of commercials for the Air Jordan
Air Jordan
XVI. As a result, the second video features appearances from Michael Finley, Eddie Jones, Derek Jeter, Roy Jones Jr., Ray Allen
Ray Allen
and even Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan
himself.[6] Reception[edit]

Professional ratings

Review scores

Source Rating

AllMusic [2]

Christgau's Consumer Guide A−[7]

Entertainment Weekly A−[8]

Muzik [9]

NME 8/10[10]

Pitchfork 8.7/10[11]

Rolling Stone [4]

The Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Guide [12]

The Source 4/5[13]

Spin 10/10[14]

Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
received universal acclaim from critics. Matt Diehl of Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
praised the album's diversity and noted, "Merging old-school bravado with new-school poetics, the Brooklyn legend spouts incisive Afrocentric reality that takes all sides into account."[8] Dan Leroy of Yahoo! Music
Yahoo! Music
opined that "Not since Rakim's heyday has a mic-rocker so clearly articulated such complex and entertaining thoughts, with the ability to wax eloquently on matters metaphysical ('Love') and just plain physical ('Ms. Fat Booty')" and hailed the album as "a sure pick as one of the year's best."[1] The Independent lauded the record's "sharp reflections on a range of subjects from parochialism to pollution, fear to fat booties, rap to rock 'n' roll" and wrote that Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
"stands as a proud example of the heights hip-hop can achieve when its exponents put their minds to it."[3] The Village Voice's Robert Christgau
Robert Christgau
wrote that while he felt the album ran too long, "the wealth of good-hearted reflection and well-calibrated production overwhelms one's petty objections".[15] In a retrospective review, Charles Aaron
Charles Aaron
of Spin described Mos Def
Mos Def
as a "restless B-Boy citizen of the world" and called the album "playful, witty, and heart-pounding."[14] Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length

1. "Fear Not of Man" Mos Def 4:28

2. "Hip Hop" Diamond D, Mos Def* 3:16

3. "Love" 88-Keys 4:23

4. "Ms. Fat Booty" Ayatollah 3:43

5. "Speed Law" 88-Keys 4:16

6. "Do It Now!" (featuring Busta Rhymes) Mr. Khaliyl 3:49

7. "Got" Ali Shaheed Muhammad 3:27

8. "Umi Says" Mos Def, David Kennedy* 5:10

9. "New World Water" Psycho Les 3:11

10. "Rock N Roll" Psycho Les, Mos Def* 5:02

11. "Know That" (featuring Talib Kweli) Ayatollah 4:03

12. "Climb" (featuring Vinia Mojica) DJ Etch-A-Sketch, Mos Def*, Weldon Irvine* 4:02

13. "Brooklyn" Ge-ology, Mos Def*, David Kennedy* 5:09

14. "Habitat" DJ Etch-A-Sketch 4:39

15. "Mr. Nigga" (featuring Q-Tip) D-Prosper, Mos Def* 5:12

16. "Mathematics" DJ Premier 4:06

17. "May–December" 88-Keys, Mos Def* 3:29


Personnel[edit] All lyrics by Mos Def.

# Title Notes

1 "Fear Not of Man"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Fear Not for Men" by Fela Kuti Sample: "Morgenspaziergang" by Kraftwerk

2 "Hip Hop"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "The Warnings (Part II)" by David Axelrod Sample: "Slow Dance" by Stanley Clarke

3 "Love"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)" by Bill Evans Trio

4 "Ms. Fat Booty"

Songwriters: D. Smith, L. Dorrell Sample: "One Step Ahead" by Aretha Franklin

5 "Speed Law"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "And That's Saying a Lot" by Christine McVie Sample: "Promise Her Anything but Give Her Arpeggio" by Big Brother & the Holding Company

6 "Do It Now"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear

7 "Got"

Songwriters: D. Smith

8 "Umi Says"

Songwriters: D. Smith

9 "New World Water"

Songwriters: D. Smith

10 "Rock n Roll"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Memphis at Sunrise" by Bar-Kays

11 "Know That"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Anyone Who Had a Heart" by Dionne Warwick

12 "Climb"

Songwriters: D. Smith

13 "Brooklyn"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" by Milt Jackson Sample: "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby" by Roy Ayers

14 "Habitat"

Songwriters: D. Smith

15 "Mr. Nigga"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "A Legend in His Own Mind" by Gil-Scott Heron

16 "Mathematics"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Baby I'm-a Want You" by The Fatback Band Sample: " Angela Davis
Angela Davis
Interviewed by Art Seigner" by Angela Davis Sample: "On & On" by Erykah Badu Sample: "Funky Drummer" by James Brown

17 "May–December"

Songwriters: D. Smith Sample: "Jungle Jazz" by Kool & the Gang Sample: "Rock Your Baby" by KC & the Sunshine Band


Chart (1999) Peak position

UK Albums Chart[16] 56

US Billboard 200[17] 25

US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[18] 3

US Billboard Top Rap Albums[19] 1


Year Title US R&B[20] US Rap UK[21]

1999 "Ms. Fat Booty" 54 20 —

2000 "Umi Says" — — 60


Region Certification Certified units/Sales

United States (RIAA)[22] Gold 913,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone


^ a b Leroy, Dan (1999-10-12). "Mos Def: Black on Both Sides". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved on 2009-08-28. ^ a b Huey, Steve. " Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
– Mos Def". AllMusic. Retrieved August 28, 2009.  ^ a b Columnist (1999-10-29). "Latest Albums Review". The Independent. Retrieved on 2009-08-28. ^ a b Lewis, Miles Marshall (November 11, 1999). "Mos Def: Black On Both Sides". Rolling Stone. New York. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2013.  ^ RIAA - Gold & Platinum Search. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2009-06-30. ^ Umi Says - Much Respect YouTube (produced by Rawkus Records, Nike and Jordan Brand) ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). "Mos Def: Black on Both Sides". Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. Retrieved August 28, 2009.  ^ a b Diehl, Matt (November 5, 1999). "Black on Both Sides". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved August 28, 2009.  ^ Ashon, Will (December 1999). "Mos Def: Black on Both Sides (Rawkus)". Muzik. London (55): 93.  ^ Chick, Stevie (November 18, 1999). " Mos Def
Mos Def
– Black On Both Sides". NME. London. Archived from the original on June 14, 2000. Retrieved August 28, 2009.  ^ Goldman, Andrew (October 12, 1999). "Mos Def: Black on Both Sides". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 22, 2013.  ^ Relic, Peter (2004). "Mos Def". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 562. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.  ^ "Mos Def: Black on Both Sides". The Source. New York (122): 218–20. November 1999.  ^ a b Aaron, Charles (August 2009). "Mos Def". Spin. New York. 25 (8): 80. Retrieved April 9, 2016.  ^ Christgau, Robert (November 2, 1999). "Hit It, Now Hold It". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved August 28, 2009.  ^ Mos Def
Mos Def
albums peak chart position in United Kingdom: The New Danger: "Mos Def". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 18, 2012.  ^ " Mos Def
Mos Def
& Song Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.  ^ " Mos Def
Mos Def
& Song Chart History: R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.  ^ " Mos Def
Mos Def
& Song Chart History: Rap Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 18, 2012.  ^ Billboard Charts. Mos Def
Mos Def
Singles Chart History. ^ Official Charts Mos Def
Mos Def
Chart Singles History. officialcharts.com ^ "American album certifications – Mos Def
Mos Def
– Black on Both Sides". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH


Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Album Guide. Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 

External links[edit]

Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
at Acclaimed Music Black on Both Sides
Black on Both Sides
at Discogs Album
Review at RapReviews

v t e

Mos Def

Discography Songs Awards and nominations Filmography

Studio albums

Black on Both Sides The New Danger True Magic The Ecstatic


"Definition" "Respiration" "Ms. Fat Booty" "Mathematics"

Featured singles

"Bin Laden" "Stylo" "Just Begun" "Pride n Joy"


The Hard Way Ghosts Where's Marlowe? Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme Bamboozled Island of the Dead Carmen: A Hip Hopera Monster's Ball Showtime Civil Brand Brown Sugar The Italian Job The Woodsman Something the Lord Made Lackawanna Blues The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Dave Chappelle's Block Party 16 Blocks Journey to the End of the Night Prince Among Slaves Be Kind Rewind Cadillac Records Next Day Air I'm Still Here Begin Again Life of Crime

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