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Mos Def

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Initially regarded as one of the most promising rappers to emerge in the late '90s, Mos Def, aka Yasiin Bey, turned to acting in subsequent years as music became a secondary concern for him. He did release new music from time to time, including albums such as The New Danger (2004), but his output was erratic and seemingly governed by whim. Mos Def nonetheless continued to draw attention, especially from critics and underground rap fans, and his classic breakthrough albums -- Black Star (1998), a collaboration with Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek; and Black on Both Sides (1999), his solo debut -- continued to be revered, all the more so as time marched forward. Mos Def often used his renown for political purposes, protesting in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Jena Six incident in 2007, for instance. Born Dante Terrell Smith Bey on December 11, 1973, in New York City's Brooklyn borough, Mos Def began rapping at age nine and began professionally acting at age 14, when he appeared in a TV movie. After high school, he began acting in a variety of television roles, most notably appearing in 1994 on a short-lived Bill Cosby series, The Cosby Mysteries. In 1994, Mos Def formed the rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics with his younger brother and sister, and signed a recording deal with Payday Records that didn't amount to much. In 1996, his solo career was launched with a pair of high-profile guest features on De La Soul's "Big Brother Beat" and Da Bush Babees' "S.O.S." A year later, in 1997, Mos Def released his debut single, "Universal Magnetic," on Royalty Records, and it became an underground rap hit. This led to a recording contract with Rawkus Records, which was just getting off the ground at the time, and he began working on a full-length album with like-minded rapper Talib Kweli and producer Hi-Tek. The resulting album, Black Star (1998), became one of the most celebrated rap albums of its time. A year later came Mos Def's solo album, Black on Both Sides, and it inspired further attention and praise. Yet, aside from appearances on the Rawkus compilation series Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing, no follow-up recordings were forthcoming, as the up-and-coming rapper turned his attention elsewhere, away from music. During the early 2000s, Mos Def acted in several films (Monster's Ball, Bamboozled, Brown Sugar, The Woodsman) and even spent some time on Broadway (in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog). He simultaneously worked on the Black Jack Johnson project with several iconic black musicians: keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Dr. Know, drummer Will Calhoun, and bassist Doug Wimbish. This project aimed to reclaim rock music, especially the rap-rock hybrid, from such artists as Limp Bizkit, who Mos Def openly despised. Mos Def hoped to infuse the rock world with his all-black band, and during the early 2000s, he performed several small shows with his band around the New York area. In October 2004, he finally delivered a second solo album, The New Danger, which involved Black Jack Johnson on a few tracks. Two years later, after a few more acting roles -- including the Golden Globe-winning Lackawanna Blues and the Emmy-winning Something the Lord Made, both of which were made-for-television movies -- Mos Def released his third solo album, True Magic (2006). A contract-fulfilling release for Geffen, which had absorbed Rawkus years prior, the album trickled out in a small run during the last week of 2006. Bizarrely, the disc came with no artwork and was sold in a clear plastic case -- though its single, "Undeniable," did manage to grab a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance. Released on the Universal-distributed Downtown label, The Ecstatic followed in June 2009. At that point, Mos Def had significant acting roles in Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (in which he co-starred with Jack Black) and Cadillac Records (he played Chuck Berry). The Ecstatic nabbed another Grammy nomination. Throughout the next few years, he lengthened his acting résumé and contributed to Gorillaz' Plastic Beach, Robert Glasper Experiment's Grammy-winning Black Radio, and A$AP Rocky's At. Long. Last. A$AP, among other albums. In January 2016, he made an announcement through Kanye West's website; after he disputed a recent arrest in South Africa for breaking an immigration law, he declared his retirement from the entertainment industry and the forthcoming release of his final album, due later in the year. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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Stations Featuring
Mos Def

    '90s Hip-Hop

    '90s Hip-Hop
    4 songs

    Late Night Mix

    Late Night Mix
    1 song

    Underground Hip-Hop

    Underground Hip-Hop
    1 song

    Neo-Soul

    Neo-Soul
    1 song

Albums by
Mos Def

Top Songs by
Mos Def

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Ms. Fat Booty
  3.   Umi Says
  4.   Fear Not of Man
  5.   Hip Hop
  6.   Auditorium
  7.   Mathematics
  8.   Universal Magnetic
  9.   Casa Bey
  10.   Quiet Dog
  11.   New World Water
  12.   Ghetto Rock
  13.   Respiration by Black Star
  14.   Twilite Speedball
  15.   Love
  16.   No Particular Place To Go
  17.   Freaky Black Greetings
  18.   Rock N Roll
  19.   Fake Bonanza
  20.   Mr. Nigga by Q-Tip
  21.   Sex, Love & Money
  22.   War
  23.   Life In Marvelous Times
  24.   Beef
  25.   Brooklyn
  26.   Excellence
  27.   Modern Marvel
  28.   History
  29.   Pretty Dancer
  30.   Got
  31.   Thug Is a Drug
  32.   Sun, Moon, Stars
  33.   The Panties
  34.   Habitat
  35.   Speed Law
  36.   Body Rock featuring Q-Tip
  37.   The Embassy
  38.   No Hay Nada Mas
  39.   Promised Land
  40.   Champion Requiem
  41.   The Beggar
  42.   Grown Man Business (Fresh Vintage Bottles)
  43.   Sunshine
  44.   Zimzallabim
  45.   Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet) by Faith Evans
  46.   Wylin Out by Diverse
  47.   Do It Now
  48.   Climb
  49.   Workers Comp
  50.   Supermagic
  51.   Roses
  52.   Priority
  53.   Pistola
  54.   Maybellene
  55.   U R the One
  56.   A Ha
  57.   Napoleon Dynamite
  58.   There Is a Way
  59.   The Easy Spell
  60.   Life Is Real
  61.   Bedstuy Parade & Funeral March
  62.   May-December
  63.   Destination Love
  64.   The Tournament
  65.   Perfect Timing
  66.   Universal Magnetic
  67.   Wahid
  68.   Revelations
  69.   Come On
  70.   Nadine
  71.   True Magic
  72.   Undeniable
  73.   Crime & Medicine
  74.   Dollar Day
  75.   Close Edge
  76.   Blue Black Jack
  77.   The Boogie Man Song
  78.   Know That
  79.   Can U C the Pride in the Panther
  80.   2009 BET Awards Cypher #3 featuring Black Thought
  81.   Murder of a Teenage Life
  82.   Caldonia
  83.   The Rape Over
  84.   Lifetime

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