Cheat Codes Album Review


Kellan Raterman, Sports Co-Editor '23

2022 has been one of the best years for music and hip-hop especially in recent memory.  With releases from many artists such as Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, Honestly Nevermind and Her Loss from Drake, Future’s I Never Liked You, Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry, and many others, there are plenty of underrated projects that went under the radar to many listeners as they were overshadowed by popular artists or there was simply too much to listen to.  I am going to give my thoughts on what I think is a project that went under the radar to many people and is a must listen for any rap listeners.  

Cheat Codes is a collab from two legends, Black Thought and Danger Mouse.  The project last 38 minutes, has 12 tracks, and contains features from Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Rocky, Conway the Machine, and MF DOOM!  Black Thought is the lead MC for The Roots, the Tonight Show house band, and been at the top of the rap totem pole for 30 years with his lyricism.  Cheat Codes is the first rap record produced by Danger Mouse since his collab album, The Mouse and the Mask, with MF DOOM in 2005.  Danger Mouse has been one the most important producers of the 21st century with works including the Gray Album, The Mouse and the Mask, and Gnarls Barkley.

The album opens with the elegant, “Sometimes”, that features a one verse from Black Thought; This track also features a soulish string sample.  The title track includes intense drums and clever wordplay from Black Thought.  The third track, “The Darkest Part”, features Raekwon and Kid Sister.  This is one of my favorites from the album because of the classic hip-hop vibe from the song, Kid Sister’s catchy chorus, the sample of “Rest My Head”, and the verses from Black Thought and Raekwon. 

“Because” is a similar track with funky bass lines and a perfect soul sample to go along with impressive verses from Joey Bada$$, Black Thought, and Russ.  “Belize” is a track with a psych rock sample and hazy sounding instruments.  The MF DOOM verse, which is most likely a throw away verse from the 2005 album, fits sonically with the song and rounds out the first half of the album.  The second half of the album opens with the climactic “Aquamarine” which is my favorite song from the project; this track includes intrapersonal bars from Black Thought, including the chorus from Michael Kiwanuka.  “Strangers” is a track that reminds me a lot of Danger Mouse’s work on The Mouse and the Mask because of the groovy and animated sounding beat.  Black Thought, A$AP Rocky, EL-P, and Killer Mike all deliver impressive verses as well.  The album finishes with a solid two minute track where Black Thought and Danger Mouse click once again.  

Although I would not consider this my favorite hip-hop project of the year, I think it is very underappreciated and deserves a listen.