Before Broken Bells, before Gnarls Barkley, even before The Grey Album, producer Danger Mouse teamed up with Brooklyn emcee Jemini to release an album on Lex called Ghetto Pop Life in 2003. This album had its fans back in the day, but the music quickly became eclipsed by the success of The Grey Album in 2004 and all of the subsequent projects that Danger Mouse took on over the years. Now after getting back to his hip hop roots with last years collaborative album with Black Thought, Cheat Codes, he has finally gone back to the beginning and re-teamed with Jemini for a brand new album, Born Again.

Whenever groups reunite after an extended hiatus, it’s easy to feel a little nervous, because for every success story, there’s at least a couple of mediocre to forgettable to straight up bad albums. Luckily, as soon as I pressed play on the opening track of Born Again, “All I,” I knew that I was in good hands. Danger Mouse is laying down some beautiful psychedelic underground beats, and Jemini is bringing just the right combination of charisma, personal storytelling, and vulnerability to the mic to make for a really compelling listen. All of these aspects that were established in this opening track are then just built upon over the course of the album. Danger Mouse continues to give you this really sophisticated musicianship with all of these interesting nuances, and he keeps switching up rhythms and sounds while also keeping the flow smooth and the hooks really big. It’s that rare album where you can crank it up and just enjoy it for how much it bangs, but then you can also really dive in and keep listening over and over and dissecting all of the interesting loops and flips and other subtleties that Danger Mouse has buried within the tracks to give you that complete listening experience. Similarly, Jemini is giving you that grown emcee experience on the mic, where he’s able to give some mature perspectives, such as on “Dear Poppa,” where he attempts to reconcile his complicated feelings about his father now that he himself is grown and can appreciate his father’s shortcomings and strengths and make peace with all of it. At the same time, he can lay down some good old fashioned hip hop shit talking, as featured on the gritty and funky “Knuckle Sandwich II.” It’s also an incredibly tight album, with Danger Mouse & Jemini giving you ten tracks, all killer no filler, and then bouncing before they overstayed their welcome.

Born Again is the 2023 reunion album that I didn’t know that I needed, but I am extremely happy now that it is here. Those that listened to Ghetto Pop Life (and especially those that were lucky enough to catch them on tour) knew what great chemistry Danger Mouse and Jemini had together. Now a whole new generation of listeners can appreciate it, with the added bonus of the two musicians having two decades to sharpen their skill sets and give us something even better than the first time. Born Again didn’t have to hit so hard and give us so much depth, but these two weren’t going to reunite only to phone it in. They both brough their A Game and gave us one of the best albums of the year in the process.