When Mos Def kick-started his hip-hop career with that Talib Kweli Black Star collaboration and Black on Both Sides , it was a one-two artist statement along the lines of Orson Welles' back-to-back triumphs Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons . Def's debuts featured strongly masculine, un-gangsta-ish raps done up in aptly muscular musicality.

But that was 1998 and '99. What's Def done for me lately?

Musically, not much.

On True Magic , Def is nearly faceless – rapping, ranting and rambling against shockingly generic soundscapes, adding little but laziness to tracks from Juvenile's UTP and GZA, writing dull rhymes. Even the CD cover is bland.

Still, Mos croons through the catchy “There is a Way” with crazy intensity, jazzes up “Sun, Moon, Stars” like the experimentalist we know he can be, and makes “U R the One” simmer sexily and smartly. Maybe he's waiting for his next record to do something great.

Stop waiting, Mos. Do it, Def.

Grade: D+