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Mos Def

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


    1 song

Albums by
Mos Def

Top Songs by
Mos Def

  1.   Song
  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.   New World Water
  11.   Quiet Dog
  12.   Ghetto Rock
  13.   Respiration by Black Star
  14.   Twilite Speedball
  15.   Love
  16.   No Particular Place To Go
  17.   Mr. Nigga by Q-Tip
  18.   Freaky Black Greetings
  19.   Rock N Roll
  20.   Fake Bonanza
  21.   Sex, Love & Money
  22.   Life In Marvelous Times
  23.   War
  24.   Beef
  25.   Got
  26.   A Ha
  27.   Murder of a Teenage Life
  28.   Brooklyn
  29.   The Panties
  30.   Know That
  31.   Grown Man Business (Fresh Vintage Bottles)
  32.   Close Edge
  33.   Can U C the Pride in the Panther
  34.   The Boogie Man Song
  35.   Body Rock featuring Q-Tip
  36.   Wahid
  37.   Caldonia
  38.   The Rape Over
  39.   Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet) by Faith Evans
  40.   Universal Magnetic
  41.   Champion Requiem
  42.   Habitat
  43.   Excellence
  44.   2009 BET Awards Cypher #3 featuring Black Thought
  45.   Workers Comp
  46.   Supermagic
  47.   History
  48.   Come On
  49.   Undeniable
  50.   Napoleon Dynamite
  51.   There Is a Way
  52.   Modern Marvel
  53.   Sunshine
  54.   Speed Law
  55.   The Embassy
  56.   Promised Land
  57.   Maybellene
  58.   True Magic
  59.   Thug Is a Drug
  60.   Crime & Medicine
  61.   Dollar Day
  62.   Perfect Timing
  63.   Destination Love
  64.   The Beggar
  65.   The Easy Spell
  66.   Life Is Real
  67.   Bedstuy Parade & Funeral March
  68.   Blue Black Jack
  69.   Zimzallabim
  70.   Wylin Out by Diverse
  71.   May-December
  72.   Climb
  73.   Do It Now
  74.   Revelations
  75.   U R the One
  76.   The Tournament
  77.   Priority
  78.   Pretty Dancer
  79.   Pistola
  80.   Nadine
  81.   Sun, Moon, Stars
  82.   Lifetime
  83.   Roses
  84.   No Hay Nada Mas

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