It takes something very special for two artists to forge a relationship borne out of the simple love of making music. Well Cheat Codes—the long-awaited collaboration between Danger Mouse (producer of everyone from Gorillaz to MF DOOM and Philadelphia hip-hop institution Black Thought (of The Roots)—has it, and in spades.
With Cheat Codes, Danger Mouse and Black Thought have joined forces with one goal in mind: to create a red-hot hip-hop album full of deeply bonkers instrumentals and thought-provoking bars. The result is a banger from start to finish, with Black Thought lyrically relentless over some of the best cuts Danger Mouse has ever produced.
One of the most exciting things about this record is how it successfully bridges the gap between older, more traditional rap and newer styles. While one track (“Strangers”) features a guest appearance from an actual pop-rap star and bonafide underground cult heroes (A$AP Rocky and Run The Jewels), another track (“Because”) features two young upstarts—who are only 27 and 29 years old respectively—rapping alongside established hip-hop veteran Joey Bada$$.
The album is filled with other legends as well—Raekwon, the late MF Doom, Conway The Machine, and Michael Kiwanuka among them—but it’s Danger Mouse and Black Thought who really steal the show.
Cheat Codes’ wide-ranging influences and references make for a dense but lively listen. It’s a testament to both Black Thought and Danger Mouse that, even on their first collaboration, they are able to build something that feels so current yet so wholly informed by music history. It’s truly amazing to listen to them coming together for what might be their best work yet this late into their careers.
The album is best suited for late-night listens; with its beats influenced by the 90s and its bars influenced by life experience, it thrives in dim lights and later hours. Turn it up, turn off your phone, and take a listen—Cheat Codes is worth the trip.