Hip hop artist and actor Yasiin Bey, whom most of us know by his long-time stage name Mos Def, announced last year that he was retiring from music and the screen at age 43. For his final concerts he chose a three-night run this past New Year’s weekend at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. He promises to stay in the arts, and I hope someday he’ll head back to the recording studio.
His entertainment career began as a child actor, with small TV parts, and he’s since appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. He was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his starring role in the HBO movie “Something the Lord Made”, based on the life of Vivien Thomas.
His music career took off with the release of “Mos Def and Talib Kwali Are Black Star” in 1998. Bey’s brand of hip hop was often on the musical side of the genre’s spectrum, and his lyrics were socially conscious and most often playable in polite company. Though not the most famous song from “Black Star”, “K.O.S. (Determination)” is my personal favorite.
A year later he released his major solo debut “Black on Both Sides”. A personal favorite on this album is “Umi says”, any my taste has been validated on this one. President Barack Obama included it on his 2015 summer playlist.
Of course Bey collaborated with many of his hip hop contemporaries, but his global reach may have been broader than many. Here is a nice track from the 2009 album “Soundtrack 2” by Japan’s DJ Deckstream.