Danger Mouse & Black Thought Cheat Codes BMG
A year before his global breakthrough with CeeLo Green as Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse enthralled rap fans as the beat-making half of DANGERDOOM. The virtuoso producer’s Technicolor beats perfectly complemented MF DOOM’s playful rhymes, as evidenced on the acclaimed album The Mouse and the Mask. It was also around that time that he first became acquainted with Black Thought, with the pair working on tracks together before shelving them entirely.
Seventeen years later, the prolific producer’s desire to craft another hip-hop album – his first since 2005 – saw him enlist the Roots frontman for a project that ranks among this year’s best. Serving up a typically soulful backdrop to Thought’s lyrical assaults, Cheat Codes is loaded with the kind of colourful production we’ve come to expect from Danger Mouse. The beats switch between triumphant boom-bap (No Gold Teeth), abrasive percussion (the A$AP Rocky and Run the Jewels-assisted Strangers), and tinkling piano (Identical Deaths). Thought is in incisive form throughout, ready for battle on The Darkest Part, like he’s rapping through a megaphone during a heated protest, as well as connecting the dots between Machiavelli, Yayoi Kusama, and various deities on the bluesy Because.
Cheat Codes closes with Violas and Lupitas, capping off the album’s exposition of the struggle and strife of living in inner-city America (with particular focus on Thought’s stomping grounds in south Philly). It’s a fitting conclusion to a 12-track record that is as unrelenting as it is lush, and a worthy standout among many excellent records leading the revival of socially-aware rap in 2022.