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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 68.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Mos Def: The Ecstatic

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In the late '90s, Mos Def distinguished himself with nuanced, thoughtful rap steeped in mature musical samples. His best work was more emotionally complex than the thump-thump beats and shouted raps that define a lot of commercial hip-hop.

After recent stumbles, The Ecstatic returns Mos Def to the high standards he set early in his career.

"Auditorium" is built around a haunting Arabian riff and rap verses that lament the hopelessness of universal ghetto life. One verse is a dreamy recollection of a soldier's sad interaction with a young Iraqi.

"Life in Marvelous Times" is a disarming look back at growing up amid squalor and violence. "The windows on the Ave look like sad eyes /They fix a sharp gaze on you when you pass by," raps Def.

The Ecstatic isn't all about happy times. But it's aptly named for the level of emotional intensity these tracks create.

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