As Mos Def reaches critical mass as an iconic street Renaissance man (actor, rapper, poet, thespian, television host), it makes sense to look back at his career thus far. Illson Media aids in this endeavor by releasing the only album by UTD (Urban Thermo Dynamics). Recorded in 1995 by Mos and his younger siblings Jashiya Illson (DCQ) and Ces, Manifest Destiny takes its title from the song of the same name, a classic slice of mid-'90s hip-hop that finds Mos and DCQ trading verses like A Tribe Called Quest. But the real star is kid sister Ces, who offers one of the few female voices laying down the golden age style while often outshining her literal bros. "My Kung-Fu," the only other previously released cut, bumps in a similar boom-bap way, although it doesn't carry the same punch. But the unreleased jams are what really matters here. "Hard Core" finds Mos rhyming in a rasta-tinged growl while Ces does some similar shouts on "Victory." "Flight to Puerto Rico" makes its vintage known with a comical punch-out hit sample, while "Like That" shakes its sleigh bells while the brothers trade verses. Remixes of "Manifest Destiny" and "My Kung Fu" give the songs a sharper beat attack, which may or may not be necessary depending on how dear you hold your hip-hop history. But the whole point here should be to look back and wonder what if this record had actually dropped on time. Perhaps Mos would still be bringing heat with his family. You know life is great when even your alternate fate sounds pretty darn sweet.
AllMusic Review by Joshua Glazer