Mos Def, Hip Hop   1 comment


Mos Def

Dante Terrell Smith (born December 11, 1973) is an American actor and emcee, known by the stage names Mos Def ( /ˌmoʊsˈdɛf/) and Yasiin Bey. He started his hip hop career in a group called Urban Thermo Dynamics, after which he appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. With Talib Kweli, he formed the duo Black Star, which released the album Black Star in 1998. He was a major force in late 1990s underground hip hop while with Rawkus Records. As a solo artist he has released the albums Black on Both Sides in 1999, The New Danger in 2004, True Magic in 2006, and The Ecstatic in 2009.[1]

Although he was initially recognized for his musical output, since the early 2000s, Mos Def’s screen work has established him as one of only a handful of rappers who have garnered critical approval for their acting work. Mos Def has also been active in several social and political causes.

[ Early lifeHe was born Dante Terrell Smith in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of Sheron Smith and Abdul Rahman.[2] Mos Def grew up during the golden age of hip-hop and has rapped and acted since he was six. He attended Philippa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He majored in Musical Theater at Talent Unlimited High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. He studied at New York University in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.[citation needed]

He has two younger brothers, Abdul Rahman (a.k.a. “Gold Medal Man”), who is Mos Def’s full-time DJ, and Anwar Superstar. He also has a younger sister, Ces “Casey” Smith, and a younger half-brother, Jermone Victor Moulton, who resides in Brooklyn and shares the same mother.[citation needed]

Mos Def converted to Islam. While his father was initially a member of the Nation of Islam and later an active member in the community of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who merged into mainstream Islam from the Nation, Mos Def was not exposed to Islam until the age of 13. At 19, he took his shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith. He is friends with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.[3]

[edit] Career[edit] MusicMos Def began his music career in 1994 in the short-lived group Urban Thermo Dynamics with his younger brother D.c.Q and younger sister Ces. Despite their contract with Payday Records, the group only had two singles, and their debut album Manifest Destiny was not released until 2004, when it was distributed by Illson Media. In 1996, he emerged as a solo artist and worked with De La Soul and Da Bush Babees, before he released his own first single, “Universal Magnetic”, which was a huge underground hit.[citation needed]

Mos Def signed with Rawkus Records and formed the group Black Star with Talib Kweli. They released an album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, in 1998.[4] Mostly produced by Hi-Tek, the album featured the hit singles, “Respiration” and “Definition”, which would go on to be featured in VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop.[5] Mos Def released his solo debut album Black on Both Sides in 1999, also through Rawkus.[6] Around this time he also contributed to the Scritti Politti album Anomie & Bonhomie and Rawkus compilations Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing.

Def performing at Rock the Bells (New York).After the collapse of Rawkus, he signed to Interscope/Geffen Records, which released his second solo album The New Danger in 2004.[7] The New Danger contained a mix of several musical genres, including soul, blues, and rock and roll, performed with his rock band Black Jack Johnson, which contained members of the bands Bad Brains and Living Colour. The singles included “Sex, Love & Money” and the B-side “Ghetto Rock”; the latter went on to receive several Grammy Award nominations in 2004.

Mos Def’s final solo album for Geffen Records, True Magic, was quietly released on December 29, 2006. True Magic features production from The Neptunes, Rich Harrison and Minnesota, among others.[citation needed] The album was released in a clear-case with no cover art. Neither Geffen nor Mos Def himself promoted the album at all, which is the main reason the album was received under the radar.

The song “Crime & Medicine” is essentially a cover of GZA’s 1995 single “Liquid Swords”, though it contains different verses. Also, the track “Undeniable” samples a version of the Barrett Strong/Norman Whitfield composition “Message from a Black Man”. The song “Dollar Day” uses the same beat as Juvenile’s “Nolia Clap”.[8]

MTV reported that this album isn’t a full version, but a teaser/promotional debut. A new version of the album would be released spring 2007, with updated songs and cover art. However, on October 17, 2007, Okayplayer reported, through discussions with Mos Def’s management, that these rumors were unsubstantiated. The CD was intended to be released without promotion or cover art, as per Mos Def’s request. There would be no future re-release.

On November 7, 2007, Mos Def performed live in San Francisco at a venue called The Mezzanine. This performance was recorded for an upcoming “Live in Concert” DVD. During this performance Mos Def announced that he would be releasing a new album to be called The Ecstatic. He sang a number of new tracks; in later shows, Def previewed tracks produced by Madlib and was rumored to be going to Kanye West for new material. Producer and fellow Def Poet Al Be Back stated that he would be producing as well.[9] The album was released on June 9, 2009; upon its release, only Madlib’s production had made the cut, along with tracks by Preservation, The Neptunes, Mr. Flash, Madlib’s brother Oh No, a song by J. Dilla, and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Mos Def appears alongside Kanye West on the track “Two Words” from The College Dropout album, the track “Drunk And Hot Girls” and the bonus track “Good Night” off West’s third major album, Graduation. In 2002, he released the 12″ single Fine, which was featured in the Brown Sugar Motion Picture Soundtrack.[10]

Mos Def also appears on the debut album from fellow New Yorkers Apollo Heights on a track titled, “Concern.” In October, he signed a deal with Downtown Records and appeared on a remix to the song “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice.[11] Mos Def appeared on Stephen Marley’s debut album Mind Control on the song “Hey Baby.” In 2009, Mos Def worked together with Somali rapper K’naan to produce the track “America” for K’naan’s album Troubadour.[12]

In April 2008 he appeared on the title track for a new album by The Roots entitled Rising Down. The new single, Life In Marvelous Times, was made officially available through iTunes on November 4, 2008, and is available for stream on the Roots’ website Okayplayer.

April 2009 saw him traveling to South Africa for the first time where he performed accompanied by The Robert Glasper Experiment at the renowned Cape Town International Jazz Festival. He enticed his bemused African following with an encore introduced by his own rendition of John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” followed by a sneak preview of the track “M.D. (Doctor)”, much to the delight of the fans.[13]

Mos Def also designed two pairs of limited edition Converse shoes. The shoes were released to Foot Locker stores on August 1, 2009 in very limited amounts.[14]

In late 2009, Mos Def created a brand of clothing line with UNDRCRWN called the “Mos Def Cut & Sew Collection.” All clothing items will be sold in select stores located around the U.S. and almost exclusively on the UNDRCRWN website.[15] 2009 also found Mos Def among the MCs collaborating with the Black Keys on the first Blakroc album, a project headed by the Black Keys and Damon Dash. Mos Def appeared with Jim Jones and the Black Keys on the Late Show with David Letterman to perform the Blakroc track “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)”.

In March 2010, Mos Def’s song Quiet Dog Bite Hard was featured in Palm’s “Life moves fast. Don’t miss a thing.” campaign.[16]

Mos Def features on the first single, “Stylo”, from the third Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, alongside soul legend Bobby Womack. He also appears on the track titled “Sweepstakes”.

In September 2010, after appearing on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday track “Lord Lord Lord”, Mos Def confirmed his signing with GOOD Music.[17]

Mos Def has been an active contributor to the recovery of the oil spill in the Gulf, performing concerts and raising money towards the repair of the damages. In June 2010, he recorded a cover of the classic New Orleans song originally by Smokey Johnson, “It Ain’t My Fault” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Lenny Kravitz and Trombone Shorty.

In September 2011, Mos Def announced that he planned to use the name Yasiin instead of Mos Def beginning in 2012.[18]

In January 2012, it was reported that Mos Def and Talib Kweli had begun “to resurrect” Black Star.[19]

[edit] ActingHe began his professional acting career at the age of fourteen, appearing in the TV movie God Bless the Child, starring Mare Winningham. He then played the oldest child in the short-lived family sitcom, You Take the Kids, starring Nell Carter and Roger E. Mosley. His most notable acting role before his music career was that of Bill Cosby’s sidekick on the short-lived detective show, The Cosby Mysteries. He also starred in a 1996 Visa check card commercial featuring Deion Sanders. In 1997 he had a small role alongside Michael Jackson in his short film and music video “Ghosts”.

After brief appearances in Bamboozled[20] and Monster’s Ball,[21] Mos re-invigorated his acting career with his performance as a talented rapper who is reluctant to sign to a major label in Brown Sugar.[22] He was nominated for an Image Award and a Teen Choice Award.[23]

In 2001, he took a supporting role to Beyoncé Knowles and Mehki Phifer in the MTV movie Carmen: A Hip Hopera as Lt. Miller, a crooked cop.

In 2002, he played the role of Booth in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, a Tony-nominated and Pulitzer-winning Broadway play. He and co-star Jeffrey Wright won a Special Award from the Outer Critics Circle Award for their joint performance.[24] He also received positive notices as the quirky Left Ear in the blockbuster hit, The Italian Job in 2003.[25] He also appeared in 2003 in the music video You Don’t Know My Name of the song by Alicia Keys.

In television, Mos Def has appeared on NYPD Blue,[26] on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show,[27] and has hosted the award-winning HBO spoken word show, Def Poetry since its inception.[28] The show’s sixth season aired in 2007. He also appeared on the sitcom My Wife And Kids as the disabled friend of Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans).

Mos Def won Best Actor, Independent Movie at the 2005 Black Reel Awards for his portrayal of Detective Sgt. Lucas in The Woodsman.[29] For his portrayal of Vivien Thomas in HBO’s film Something the Lord Made,[30] he was nominated for an Emmy Award[31] and a Golden Globe, and won the Image Award. He also played a bandleader in HBO’s Lackawanna Blues. He then landed the role of Ford Prefect in the 2005 movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.[32]

Def and Bruce Willis on the set of 16 Blocks, filmed on location in Chinatown, Manhattan on Pell Street.In 2006, Mos Def appeared in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party alongside fellow Black Star companion Talib Kweli, while also contributing to the film’s soundtrack.[33] Also, Mos Def was featured as the black banjo player in the infamous “Pixie Sketch” from Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes. He was later edited out of it on the DVD. Additionally, Mos Def starred in the action film 16 Blocks alongside Bruce Willis and David Morse.[34] He has a recurring guest role on Boondocks, starring as “Gangstalicious”. He is also set to be in Toussaint, a film about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, opposite Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes. He made a cameo appearance — playing himself — in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.[35]

In 2007, Mos Def narrated the PBS-broadcast documentary Prince Among Slaves.

In 2008, Mos Def starred in the Michel Gondry movie Be Kind Rewind, playing a video rental store employee whose best friend is played by co-star Jack Black.[36] He also portrayed Chuck Berry in the film Cadillac Records,[37] for which he was nominated for a Black Reel Award and an Image Award.

In 2009, he appeared in the House episode entitled “Locked In” as a patient suffering from locked-in syndrome. His performance was well-received, with E! saying that Mos Def “delivers an Emmy-worthy performance.”[38] He was also in the 2009 film Next Day Air.

In 2010, he appeared on the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba! as Super Mr. Superhero. He also appeared in A Free Man of Color, John Guare’s play at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.[39]

In 2011, he began a multi-episode appearance on the Showtime television series Dexter. He played Brother Sam, an ex-con who has supposedly found religion despite finding himself in violent situations

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Posted February 25, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Rappers / Hip Hop

One response to “Mos Def, Hip Hop

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  1. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been running a blog for? you make blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your web site is great, let alone the content!

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