Danger Mouse & Black Thought – Aquamarine

25th August 2022 · 2020s, 2022, Hip-Hop, Music

Danger Mouse and Black Thought collaborate on the album Cheat Codes. This is one of its many standout tracks, featuring Michael Kiwanuka.

I’m usually cautious when the white middle-aged music reviewing fraternity (and it’s mostly men) decide to bestow their critical acclaim upon a rap album. 

It’s almost as if they’ve decided that if they all agree on one – whether it be Kanye or Kendrick or Stormzy – then they won’t have to bother with hip hop for a while.

But they’ve been unanimous in their praise for Cheat Codes, a collaborative album by producer Danger Mouse and rapper Black Thought. And this time they’re bang on the money.

I wouldn’t say hip hop is my main go-to music genre either but I’ve been a bit obsessed with this record for the last couple of weeks. So much so that I’ve found it hard to single out a track.

I love the subeterranean bass of No Gold Teeth, I love the floating piano melody of The Darkest Part and I love the rapping of the late great MF Doom on Belize, not to mention the contribution of the ever-relevant Run The Jewels (and A$AP Rocky) on Strangers.

But I’m going for Aquamarine, incorporating a sung vocal by Michael Kiwanuka, bringing some extra melody to a typically dexterous treatise by Black Thought (aka Tariq Trotter).

His way with words appeals to the wordsmith in me – “My words should be studied up in Berkeley and Juilliard,” he raps – and the way he delivers them, in his booming baritone, connects immediately.

His story, to which he alludes on this song, is one of triumph over adversity: this is a man who has survived a terrible childhood, seeing both his parents murdered, to become the Grammy-winning leader of the Roots collective (and in-house singer/rapper on a top-rated TV show).

But it’s not just him. What also make this album so special are the spectacular soundscapes of Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), a musical genius I’ve followed ever since he created The Grey Album, cleverly fusing Jay-Z’s Black Album with The Beatles’ White Album; not to mention his subsequent work with Beck, Gorillaz and Cee-Lo Green (in Gnarls Barkley).

Anyway, here it is. Listen to the whole album. Even if hip hop is not your usual Thing. Really. Or buy it. It’s got a great cover too!