Dante Smith, better known to the world as the mighty Mos Def, has made his long-awaited and much needed return to hip-hop. After going gold in ’99 with his debut magnum opus “Black on Both Sides,” Mos turned his attention back to acting and his rock outfit Black Jack Johnson. Several movies and an Emmy nomination later, “The New Danger” has arrived, with more fanfare and expectations than ever.

Apparently, in his hiatus his Umi told him to expand his horizons. And that he has. There are equal parts rapping and singing and there are more than a few songs obviously made in the Black Jack Johnson recording sessions. “Freaky Black Greetings,” “Zimzallabim,” “The Easy Spell” and “Blue Black Jack” are all rock-influenced cuts. While “Blue Black Jack” is some dope stuff, “Freaky Black Greetings” sounds like nothing more than an impromptu jam session. It really isn’t too exciting. In fact, much of the album sounds improvised and spontaneous. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The problem comes more with the content than the music. Mos has shown his conceptual genius more than a few times (“Mathematics,” “New World Water,” etc.), and this style is abandoned in favor of more free-wheeling songs like “Ghetto Rock.” On the other hand, that song is still dope. This style extends to other songs such as “Bedstuy Parade & Funeral March,” “Modern Marvel,” and “The Beggar.” Clocking in it at over 8 minutes “Modern Marvel” is absolutely epic and “The Begger” is just one hell of a love song. Back to the gift and the curse though, the best songs are arguably the traditional songs like “Sunshine” and “Sex, Love & Money.” The former is among Kanye’s finest beats and Mos just makes you beg for more cuts like this.

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Speaking of Kanye, he gets another production credit on the albums most puzzling track. “The Rape Over” is a vicious cut where Mos uses Jay’s rhyme scheme from “The Takeover” to point out that old white men, MTV, Viacom and several others are all runnin’ this rap shit. The thing is, he also uses “The Takeover” beat. As dope as the song is, it would fit much better on a mixtape. Then you’ve got “Grown Man Business” and “Close Edge” which have been on the mixtapes for months (or on the Chappelle show). 19 tracks deep, these songs easily could have been left off.

Complaints aside, this is still a really good album, way better than most are capable of these days. You just can’t listen to a song like “The Panties” and question this man’s musical talents. “The New Danger” will certainly bring in a new group of fans, but something tells me that a portion of his longtime fans will feel alienated wondering where their universal magnetic b-boy went. You’ve gotta let the man spread his wings though.