Album Review | Cheat Codes by Danger Mouse & Black Thought


Michael Ferrari, Writer/Volunteer

Philadelphia-based hip-hop artist Black Thought has had a hold on the underground hip-hop scene since the early ‘90s due to his involvement in hip-hop group The Roots. Danger Mouse, a Los Angeles native, is a producer that has worked with some of the best names in music including and not limited to MF DOOM, Adele and Gorillaz. Both individuals are prolific figures within the underground hip-hop scene and have accrued a large and respected portfolio over their years in the industry. After Black Thought released a solo album in 2020 that went otherwise unnoticed and Danger Mouse took a hiatus from music in 2019, the two decided to team up and create Cheat Codes, an album that is characterized by its conscious lyricism and boom-bap production.

Cheat Codes is an album with a heavy influence from ’90s east coast hip-hop reinvented into something that is much more palatable for a modern audience while still offering a sense of nostalgia and vanity. Danger Mouse presents heavily produced and complex beats that Black Thought raps over with socially conscious, relevant and important content with a machine gun-type cadence which makes the entire album a delight to listen to. One of the best parts about this album is how Black Thought is able to match his flow with every beat that Danger Mouse gives him.

Black Thought offers some of the most complex, layered and meaningful rhyme schemes and one liners that I have heard from any hip-hop album released this year. Paired with Danger Mouse’s creative and inventive production style distinguished by its use of heavy drums and beautiful samples intertwined over soulful synths, this album is one of the best to drop in 2022. Not only are Black Thought and Danger Mouse excellent on each and every song individually, but the way the two work together make the album spectacular. Additionally, every feature artist on this album not only does their job, but absolutely kills it. This album features artists such as Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Rocky, Conway the Machine, Run the Jewels and even has a posthumous feature from MF DOOM.

When you listen to this album, you feel disconnected from your current reality and placed into an environment where only you and the music exists. This disassociation is mainly due to the ethereal production on this album and the continuous and overarching rhyme schemes by Black Thought. Each song on this album has something different to offer depending on what mood you’re in. Cheat Codes succeeds in creating feelings of nostalgia, excitement, hype and depression all within the same project, which I find to be one of the most impressive things about this entire album. The versatility and eccentricity of this project is unmatched to every other album that I have heard this year. Songs like “Aquamarine” and “Because” are slower songs that make you feel a sense of calmness and tranquility, meanwhile songs like “No Gold Teeth” and “Strangers” give off a sense of urgency and fury. 

I am in love with this album and listen to it on a regular basis due to its incredible replay value; every time you listen to this album, you find something new and interesting about it. I heavily recommend this album to everyone, especially old school hip-hop fans. Cheat Codes is a comfortable 9/10 and one of my favorite albums of this year. Some of my favorite songs on this project are “Because,” “Belize” and “Strangers.” Black Thought and Danger Mouse have revived an older style of the genre and do not fail to impress their audience with this album.