Today in Hip Hop History: Black on Both Sides

Today in hip hop history: black on both sides
Black on Both Sides (1999)

Today in Hip Hop History: October 12, 1999

Brooklyn-based MC Mos Def released his debut solo album, Black on Both Sides, through Rawkus and Priority Records this day in 1999. Black on Both Sides comes on the heels of the classic 1998 collaboration album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, which the two MCs created to much buzz. The socially conscious album Black on Both Sides includes production from Diamond D, Ge-ology, 88-Keys, DJ Premier, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and others. It also features vocals from Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Vinia Mojica and Q-Tip, the latter two of which do not rap verses but sing.

The production on the album features well established producers as well as other upcoming ones at the time. Mos Def oversaw much of the production but also required help within that respect. The samples of the album include several soul songs, classic hip hop songs and live instrumentation.

However, the most revered aspect of Black on Both Sides is Mos Def’s smooth way of writing conscientious lyrics with his well-crafted flow. The MC focuses on trials and tribulations of being African American in the United States, along with subject matter surrounding his hometown, girls with fat booties, and how white culture stole rock and roll. Such bold statements within songs have become a staple in his music.

The album received fantastic rave reviews and fared well commercially as well. The album peaked at #25 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top Rap Albums Charts. It become RIAA Certified Gold in 2000. Black on Both Sides has stood strong through the sands of time and remains a classic hip hop album to this day. As Mos Def’s pinnacle in his rapping career, the album serves as one of the best socially conscious hip hop albums of all time.