Play Live Radio
Next Up:

Album review of Danger Mouse & Black Thought's 'Cheat Codes'


And finally today, you probably know the rapper and emcee Tariq Trotter as the frontman of the hip-hop group The Roots. It's the house band for "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon." But now Trotter, who is also known as Black Thought, has a new album out of his own, a collaboration with music producer Danger Mouse. It's called "Cheat Codes." We called Jack Hamilton to tell us about it. He is a music critic for Slate magazine and professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. And he joined us to tell us about a few of the album's standout tracks.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Young gunners in beast mode, K-9 teeth show. Cheat code, playing with unlimited free throws.

JACK HAMILTON: "Cheat Codes" is the title track of the album, and I think it's a really great example of the hallmarks of this record in terms of - you can hear the brilliance of Black Thought's rapping and Danger Mouse's production style just really, really evidently on display.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Go on, take his name in vain, like a phlebotomist. I'm the one that tell you what time it is. Never been into selling you promises. It's hot as a pot of grits.

HAMILTON: Everything is very kind of in the pocket, as people say - very, very sort of rhythmically complex, but always - you know, always very much under control. It's really - it's a real masterful, I think, display of rapping on this track. And, you know, it's indicative of the rest of the album, as well.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Playing a game, trying hard to hang by the same string. You better get the cheat code or get RICO-ed.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Wind in my face, hound at my heels. At the end, I'm winning this race. Only then can I chill. But till then, don't ever try to stagnate the magnate. When it's money on the line, never make the bag wait. I just add weight to the bag until the bag break. That holy swag make the cash get the gas face.

HAMILTON: So "No Gold Teeth" was the first track that a lot of people heard from this album because it was the first song to be released from it. It came out a few months ago. But this might actually be my favorite track on the album.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) They requested my IG. I replied deny. Tell me I'm in the top three. They ain't never lied. Stop through in that Peking to Paris. What a ride. The car's two-to-five. The doors suicide. Testing the GOAT'll be your suicide. No matter which corner of the globe you reside.

HAMILTON: The musical backdrop changes quite a bit, you know, throughout the verses. And you have all of these different kind of musical ideas and textures that are happening behind Black Thought. In a way, it's, like, almost mimicking the experience of sort of hearing more of a live band, something that has a lot of kind of dynamism to it.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Singing) Away from you. (Rapping) Yo, I'm sick. No lymph nodes is swollen. They told me even when the records skip, keep it rolling. On the shoulder like a California highway patrolman.

HAMILTON: So "Belize" is probably one of the most special tracks on this album because it's a collaboration - a posthumous collaboration with the late MF Doom.


MF DOOM: (Rapping) Doom get rude with the dude off chips. The mood switch. He chewed off strips of a Broodwich (ph). Danger make him groove off a glitch. Made your boo booty twitch and the crew rich. Always wanted to say that, ever since the days in the hallways taunting a stray cat, the one he often frequently slapped around. All the while, waited then graduated - cap and gown.

HAMILTON: When you see a posthumous collaboration, you're somewhat apprehensive - you know? - because you're like, wait, what if this is something that's just sort of added - you know, it's some sort of rough draft type thing that the artist never really meant to be released? You know, that happens a lot. But then to hear it and have it be just totally brilliant, and it sounds like, you know, peak MF Doom - like, it's just like - it's like being able to hear this sort of lost Doom verse.

And MF Doom is just sort of a legendary hip-hop figure in terms of just a dazzling lyricist, dazzling emcee. There's very few people, I think, who are really at the level of Black Thought throughout the history of hip-hop music, and MF Doom is absolutely one of them. So it's just this really kind of moving experience to be able to hear both of these artists sharing a track together.

MARTIN: That was Jack Hamilton, music critic for Slate magazine, telling us about "Cheat Codes." That's the new album from rapper Black Thought and producer Danger Mouse, and it's out now.


BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Yeah, while y'all was suffering from future shock, hurting and hating, waiting for that other shoe to drop, I was relocating this whole operation to the top for you to copy and paste. In case you forgot, I'm super hot and beyond your range. It's kind of strange how the change in climate ain't because of climate change. I acquired this affinity for finer things, like big folds, Range and... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 16, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier headline and web introduction mistakenly referred to Danger Mouse & Black Thought as Black Thought and Danger Mouse.