Mos Def

True Magic (Geffen)

Strange, this package looks more like a bootleg version of True Magic, Mos Def's latest. But, it's the real deal -- unless, of course, it was purchased from a man selling discs out the back of his car.

Released ahead of schedule -- no cover art and little promotional support -- the record has spawned numerous rumors, including the idea that Def wanted to avoid hype, forcing fans to focus strictly on the music; this obviously didn't work. But behind all the drama, the Brooklyn MC's third solo outing sounds pretty damn good. Taking cues from Common's Electric Circus (on which Def appeared), Magic unfolds like a psychedelic experiment heavy on reverb and short on hooks. "Undeniable" and "There Is a Way" continue his tradition of positive lyrics, transmitting messages of hope and perseverance. But the album does explore the darkness. The reggae-fueled "Dollar Days" assesses the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, and "Murder of a Teenage Life" is some kind of cocaine/ gun drama.

Call it Mos Def's Kid A, 'cause True Magic is a fearless effort that doesn't care about climbing the charts.