Danger Mouse returns after 20 years to collab with Black Thought

Taijai Wallace, Contributing Writer

Timeless rap legend and The Roots Native Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter gives us insight into his visionary new album, “Cheat Codes,” a collaboration with the legendary producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. On this album, Trotter and Burton dive into different societal situations Trotter has discussed since the ’90s, this time with a little ear twist.

From the first couplet of the opening track, “Sometimes,” Danger Mouse and Black Thought play on pop culture knowledge and hip-hop history of its listener: “Prisoners of Azkaban, thinking of a master plan.” The line nodding to the title track from Eric B. & Rakim’s hip-hop magnum opus, “Paid in Full,” and an infamous prison to house the worst-of-the-worst wayward wizards in Harry Potter.

Black Thought has been lauded as a legend in the hip-hop music scene and has served as the primary emcee of the three-time Grammy winning group The Roots, critically acclaimed for their discography.

Since 2009, late-night TV viewers have witnessed The Roots accompanying Jimmy Fallon as his house band for his late-night shows.

Most fans discovered Danger Mouse through his collaboration with CeeLo Green called Gnarls Barkley. One of their popular songs, “Crazy,” sits at 728 million streams on Spotify and 165 million views on YouTube. Danger Mouse also had an Adult Swim collaboration with the great MF Doom, who died in 2020.

Before the album was released, it was going to have a different name. According to The Guardian, the original title would have been “Dangerous Thoughts.”

After hearing the album, I think that would have been a creative title. It combines Black Thoughts and Dangers Mouse’s stage names highlighting a vivid twist of both minds, a sampler to the album.

While most reviews place the album at an 83 out of 100 on MetaCritic, critics wanted more from the collaboration. In a mostly positive 7.2 out of 10 review on the online music publication Pitchfork, contributing editor Dylan Green, said: “As entertaining as this project is, there’s a sense that it could’ve been bigger, more substantial. Some songs are hampered by the decision to turn Black Thought’s vocals way down in the mix.”

In my opinion, the rawness in the vocals represented the soul of the album. The implementation of a muffled mic fits every track. Listeners are so used to hearing a song that has been mixed and mastered until every imperfection has been ironed out. Sometimes the truth must be displayed that way. A lot of times musicians and producers are so used to the normal clear-cut mixed song they forget what a raw cut feels like.While Danger Mouse has worked with rappers since “The Mouse and The Mask,” he hasn’t produced an entire album for one in nearly 20 years, according to Pitchfork.

In addition, there are special guests spitting rhymes from legends such as MF Doom, Wu-Tang Clan alum’ Raekwon and El-P, Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, pop celebs including A$AP Rocky and Joey Bada$$ to newcomers like Kid Sister and Michael Kiwanuka.

The MF Doom verse was a sample from Danger Mouse’s hip hop project with MF Doom, titled “Danger DOOM.” The verse was so raw and authentic, it felt like MF Doom never died.

“It’s evident that the producer-rapper duo complements each other’s work and by featuring other artists, elevates the rappers around them,” according to indie magazine Under the Radar. “Because of this, ‘Cheat Codes’ isn’t just an album for old hip-hop heads – it’s a timeless record that celebrates all artists.”