ALBUMS: The Art of Cheat Codes

Danger Mouse and Black Thought come correct on collaborative debut

Danger Mouse and Black Thought Cheat Codes, BMG 2022

The best hip-hop always tends to catch me off guard. As it should.

And as long as I’ve had Cheat Codes–the massive collaborative LP between Black Thought of The Roots and super producer Danger Mouse–pre-ordered on Amazon, this album caught me out there irregardless. I was excited for it, but not dying for it, if that makes any sense. 

I rarely play an album twice in the same week let alone on repeat, but here I write this on what has to be my ninth run through Cheat Codes since Prime dropped off my CD this past Friday.

Artist: Danger Mouse and Black Thought 

Album: Cheat Codes

Label: BMG

★★★★★ (5/5 stars) 

At a lean dozen tracks levied in just 38 minutes, Mouse and Tariq dial it back to the mid-to-late 90s heyday for underground hip-hop–just soul-drenched, wall-shaking beats sensationally surfed by an MC who after over 30 years in the game shows no signs of losing an ounce of luster.

Flanked by an A-Team of guest spots from Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Chef Raekwon and the dearly departed MF DOOM among others, Black Thought delivers pure fire on the lyrical tip.

Dig the opening bars of the title cut:

“Young gunners in beast mode, K-9 teeth show / Cheat code playing with unlimited free throws / Playin’ that feet, move faster than a Capri stroll / Where they run in the strip like the women in peep shows / Pay the price, gamble with ya life like Pete Rose / Bust a move, paper bubble like Veuve Clicquot’s / Who got the streets of Philly flooded like Puerto Rico’s? / You get McNabbed like Donovan, it’s finitos”

Then further down the line, he’s like:

“Theologians point to the trap house that God is in / 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 / That’s not a myth, Blackness is not a monolith / A lotta niggas probably gotta see psychologists / To understand why we wallowing where the bottom is / And common sense isn’t what they teaching in colleges”

And that’s just one song!

The whole album is like that–just pure beats, rhymes and fire for 38 straight minutes. All killer, no filler. Straight hip-hop for real heads, ya dig?


VIDEO: Danger Mouse & Black Thought feat. Run The Jewels and A$AP Rocky “Strangers”

In fact, to give you an idea of how on point Black Thought is on this album, peep the single “Strangers,” where Tariq still comes out on top as the Verse God despite being in a cipher with El-P, Killer Mike and A$AP Rocky. 

This is an album for kids who grew up going to Fat Beats and catching The Roots at CBGB during the 1999 CMJ Marathon. This kind of hip-hop is for heads who can hear the science behind the hiss of a red Maxell tape.

Modern-day rap music is magnificent, don’t get me wrong. I am here for it all, man. I’m watching for that Denzel Curry coming out in September, and I’m always on the lookout for that next Armand Hammer or JPEGMafia jawn to drop on BandCamp. Can’t forget Bruiser Brigade either.

But I don’t think any other album this year will represent true school hip-hop the way Cheat Codes does. This is as real as it gets.


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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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