Jump to content

Yasiin Bey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Mos Def)

Yasiin Bey
Yasiin Bey performing at the 2012 Ilosaarirock festival
Yasiin Bey performing at the 2012 Ilosaarirock festival
Background information
Birth nameDante Terrell Smith
Also known as
  • Mos Def (1994–2011)
  • Black Dante
  • Dante Beze
  • Flaco
  • El-Bey the Moor
Born (1973-12-11) December 11, 1973 (age 50)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
  • Rapper
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actor
  • activist
DiscographyYasiin Bey discography
Years active1987–present
Member ofBlack Star
Formerly of

Yasiin Bey (/jæˈsn ˈb/ yass-EEN BAY; born Dante Terrell Smith, December 11, 1973), formerly known as Mos Def (/ˌms ˈdɛf/ MOHSS DEF), is an American rapper and actor. A prominent figure in conscious hip hop, he is recognized for his use of wordplay and commentary on social and political issues, such as police brutality, American exceptionalism, and the social status of African Americans.

He launched his hip hop recording career in 1994 and joined his siblings in the short-lived rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD), and guest appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. In 1996, he and fellow Brooklyn-based rapper Talib Kweli formed the duo Black Star, whose debut album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998) contained the singles "Definition" and "Respiration". He released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, in 1999, which was followed by The New Danger (2004), True Magic (2006), and The Ecstatic (2009).[4] His 2000 single "Oh No" remains his sole entry on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo act.[5] In 2014, About.com listed him 14th on its "50 Greatest Rappers of All Time".[6]

A former child actor in television films, sitcoms, and theater, Bey has appeared in the films Something the Lord Made, Next Day Air, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 16 Blocks, Be Kind Rewind, The Italian Job, The Woodsman, Bamboozled, and Brown Sugar and in television series such as Dexter and House.[7] He hosted Def Poetry Jam from 2002 to 2007.

Early life[edit]

Yasiin Bey was born Dante Terrell Smith on December 11, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York City,[8] the son of Sheron Smith and Abdulrahman Smith.[9] The eldest of 12 children and step-children, he was raised by his mother in Brooklyn, while his father lived in New Jersey.[10]

His father was initially a member of the Nation of Islam and later followed Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who merged into the mainstream Sunni Islam from the Nation of Islam. Bey was not exposed to Islam until the age of 13. He is close friends with fellow Muslim hip-hop artists Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip.[9]

Bey attended middle school at Philippa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he developed his love for acting.[10][11] After returning from filming You Take the Kids in Los Angeles, and getting into a relationship with an older girl, Bey dropped out of high school during sophomore year.[10] Growing up in New York City, during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, he has spoken about witnessing widespread instances of gang violence, theft, and poverty in society, which he largely avoided by working on plays, Off-Off-Broadway and arts programs.[11] In a particularly traumatic childhood experience, Bey witnessed his then five-year-old younger brother, Ilias Bey (born Denard Smith), get hit by a car. Ilias later adopted the alias DCQ and was described by Bey as "my first partner in hip hop".[11]

Music career[edit]

1994–1998: Beginnings with Rawkus and Black Star[edit]

Bey began his music career in 1994, forming the group UTD (or Urban Thermo Dynamics) along with younger brother DCQ and high-school friend Ces.[12] In 2004, they released the album Manifest Destiny, their first and only release to date. The album features a compilation of previously unreleased and re-released tracks recorded during the original UTD run.[13]

In 1996, Bey emerged as a solo artist and worked with De La Soul and Da Bush Babees, before he released his own first single, "Universal Magnetic" in 1997.[14][15]

Yasiin Bey in 1999

Bey signed with Rawkus Records and formed the rap group Black Star with Talib Kweli.[16] The duo released an album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, in 1998.[17] Mostly produced by Hi-Tek, the album featured the singles "Respiration" and "Definition", which both reached in the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[18]

1999–2006: Solo career and various projects[edit]

Bey released his solo debut album Black on Both Sides in October 1999, also through Rawkus.[19][20] The single "Ms. Fat Booty" charted,[18] while the album reached #25 on the Billboard 200.[21] Around this time, he also contributed to the Scritti Politti album Anomie & Bonhomie.[22][23]

Yasiin Bey performing at Rock the Bells in New York

In January 2002, Rawkus Records was taken over by Geffen Records,[24] which released his second solo album The New Danger in October 2004.[25] It included contributions by Shuggie Otis and Bernie Worrell, Doug Wimbish, and Will Calhoun as the Black Jack Johnson Band.[26] The album reached #5 on the Billboard 200, making it the most successful for the artist to date.[21] The single "Sex, Love & Money" charted,[18] and was nominated for a Grammy Award.[27] Bey's final solo album for Geffen Records, titled True Magic, was released in 2006.[28]

2007–2011: Good Music era and name change[edit]

On November 7, 2007, Bey performed live in San Francisco at The Mezzanine venue. The performance was recorded for an upcoming "Live in Concert" DVD. During the event, he announced that he would be releasing a new album to be called The Ecstatic.[29] He performed a number of new tracks; in later shows, he 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 revealed he would be producing on the album as well.[30] The album was released on June 9, 2009; but only Madlib's production had made the cut, along with tracks by Preservation, The Neptunes, Mr. Flash, Madlib's brother Oh No, J. Dilla, and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Bey 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 produced by West and featured on the Brown Sugar soundtrack.[31]

In 2007, Bey appeared on Stephen Marley's debut album Mind Control on the song "Hey Baby". He also appeared on the debut album from Apollo Heights on a track titled "Concern". That October, he signed a deal with Downtown Records and appeared on a remix to the song "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice.[32]

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

In 2009, he worked with Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan to produce the track "America" for K'naan's album Troubadour.[33]

In April 2009, Bey traveled to South Africa for the first time, and performed with The Robert Glasper Experiment at the renowned Cape Town International Jazz Festival. He treated the South African audience with an encore, introduced by his own rendition of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, followed by a sneak preview of the track "M.D. (Doctor)".[34]

Bey has designed two pairs of limited edition Converse shoes. The shoes were released through Foot Locker stores on August 1, 2009, in limited amounts.[35]

In late 2009, he created his own clothing line with the "UNDRCRWN" brand called the "Mos Def Cut & Sew Collection". The items were released in select U.S. stores and almost exclusively on the UNDRCRWN website.[36] That year, he was among the MCs aligned with American entrepreneur Damon Dash's DD172 and collaborating with American blues rock band the Black Keys on the Blakroc album, a project headed by the Black Keys and Damon Dash.[37] Bey appeared with Harlem-bred rapper 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 2010, Bey featured on the first single, "Stylo", from the third Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, alongside soul legend Bobby Womack. He also appeared on the track titled "Sweepstakes". In March 2010, Bey's song "Quiet Dog Bite Hard" was featured in Palm's "Life moves fast. Don't miss a thing." campaign.[38]

In September 2010, after appearing on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Friday track "Lord Lord Lord", Bey confirmed he had signed with GOOD Music.[39] Bey has been an active contributor to the recovery of the oil spill in the Gulf, performing concerts and raising money towards repairing its 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, the rapper announced that he legally changed his name to Yasiin Bey and would go by that name, retiring his Mos Def moniker.[40][41] Bey told a reporter "I began to fear that Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person, so I’ve been going by Yasiin since ’99. At first it was just for friends and family, but now I'm declaring it openly."[42] Bey also stated "Mos Def is a name that I built and cultivated over the years, it's a name that the streets taught me, a figure of speech that was given to me by the culture and by my environment, and I feel I've done quite a bit with that name. ...it's time to expand and move on."[43] Yasiin is a name in the Qur'an's 36th surah and was important to the rapper who converted to Islam in his teens. Bey said the name change would eliminate "having any moniker or separation between the self that I see and know myself as."[43]

Shortly after the name change announcement, Bey recorded as the narrator of the children's hip hop musical, Pacha's Pajamas: A Story Written By Nature.

2012–present: Later career and retirement[edit]

In January 2012, it was reported that Bey and Talib Kweli had begun "to resurrect" Black Star.[44] In 2015, Bey was featured on A$AP Rocky's second studio album At. Long. Last. ASAP, on the track "Back Home", alongside Acyde and the deceased A$AP Yams.[45] Bey again revived his Mos Def moniker for two new songs in August 2015, titled "Basquiat Ghostwriter" and "Sensei on the Block".[46][47]

On January 19, 2016, Bey announced his retirement from both the music and film industries on Kanye West's website: "I'm retiring from the music recording industry as it is currently assembled today, and also Hollywood, effective immediately. I'm releasing my final album this year, and that's that."[48] After announcing his retirement, he expressed gratitude to everyone who has supported him over the years and revealed his intention to enter the fashion industry and complete a handful of films.[49] Bey also confirmed he still planned to release a collaborative project with Ferrari Sheppard called Dec 99th.[49]

In October 2016, a planned concert in London was cancelled due to travel restrictions imposed on the artist;[50] other European dates suffered the same fate.[51] On October 14, Bey posted a video to Facebook where he announced that he was still planning to retire: "I'm retiring for real this year, this week. With the 17th anniversary of Black on Both Sides being released, I am grateful to have had the career that I have been able to enjoy."[52][53] He also announced one last concert which he said he would be live streaming from Cape Town, South Africa.[54] In November 2016, he was granted the ability to leave but not reenter South Africa and was put on "South Africa's 'undesirable persons' list". He said he would perform one show in Harlem and three in Washington D.C. after leaving South Africa. He announced that Dec 99th, his final album, would be released on December 9. He released three singles from it, "Local Time", "N.A.W." and "Seaside Panic Room".[55] On December 5, 2016, he announced the title of two albums, Negus in Natural Person and As Promised, the latter of which is a collaboration with Southern hip hop producer Mannie Fresh, initially titled OMFGOD.[56] In 2017, his claims of retirement were seen as questionable as he played shows on September 13, at the Fox Theater in Oakland as part of Black Star and performed on Gorillaz' Humanz World Tour, performing "Stylo" with Peven Everett, who filled in for Bobby Womack, who died in 2014. He also has yet to release or announce a release date for the last two albums of his career.[57][58]

In February 2018, Bey announced, on stage, a new Black Star studio album, produced by Madlib, would be released in 2018. However, no specific release date was made available. Later on that year, Bey appeared on the titular track of Kids See Ghosts, the collaborative effort of Kanye West and Kid Cudi. In March 2019, he debuted his album, ንጉሥ (pronounced Negus) at a listening session as part of Art Basel Hong Kong. In a press release, he said that the album "will continue to unfold as a series of varied installations around the world". He has no plans of releasing the album digitally or physically.[59]

On June 28, 2019, Bey appeared on Bandana, an album by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, alongside Black Thought, on a track named "Education". In November 2019, he stated that unreleased music, such as his collaborative album with Mannie Fresh, was still "on deck" for release.[60] In 2021, he launched "The Midnight Miracle" podcast on Luminary, along with Dave Chappelle and Talib Kweli.[61] In April 2022, a release date for the long-awaited Black Star project was officially announced. The album titled No Fear of Time was released via Luminary on May 3, 2022.[62]

Acting career[edit]

Beginnings as child actor[edit]

Prior to his career in music, Bey entered public life as a child actor, having played roles in television movies, sitcoms and theater, some of which were under the name Dante Beze.[63][64] At the age of 14, he appeared in the TV movie God Bless the Child, starring Mare Winningham, which aired on ABC in 1988.[65] He played the oldest child in the 1990 family sitcom You Take the Kids, shortly before it was cancelled. In 1995, he played the character Dante, Bill Cosby's sidekick on the short-lived detective show The Cosby Mysteries. In 1996, he starred in a Visa check card commercial featuring Deion Sanders. He also had a small role alongside Michael Jackson in his short film and music video Ghosts (1996).

Feature films, theater and television[edit]

After brief appearances in Bamboozled and Monster's Ball, Bey played a rapper who is reluctant to sign with a major label in Brown Sugar. He was nominated for an Image Award and a Teen Choice Award.[66]

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.[67] He played Left Ear in the 2003 film The Italian Job. That same year, he appeared in the Alicia Keys music video You Don't Know My Name.

In television, Bey has appeared on NYPD Blue,[68] Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show, and hosted the award-winning HBO spoken word show Def Poetry.[69] He also appeared on the sitcom My Wife and Kids as the disabled friend of Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans).

Bey won "Best Actor, Independent Movie" at the 2005 Black Reel Awards for his portrayal of Detective Sgt. Lucas in The Woodsman. For his portrayal of Vivien Thomas in HBO's film Something the Lord Made, he was nominated for an Emmy[70] 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.

Yasiin Bey and Bruce Willis on the set of 16 Blocks, filmed on location in Chinatown, Manhattan

In 2006, Bey appeared in Dave Chappelle's Block Party alongside Black Star partner Talib Kweli, while also contributing to the film's soundtrack. He was also featured as the banjo player in the Pixie Sketch" from Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes, though his appearance was edited out of the DVD. He starred in the action film 16 Blocks alongside Bruce Willis and David Morse. He also landed a recurring guest role on Boondocks, starring as Gangstalicious. He is set to be in Toussaint, a film about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, opposite Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes.[71] He made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

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

In 2008, Bey 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. He also portrayed Chuck Berry in the film Cadillac Records, for which he was nominated for a Black Reel Award and an Image Award.

In 2009, he appeared in the House episode titled "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".[72] 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.[73]

In 2011, he began a multi-episode appearance on the sixth season of Showtime television series Dexter. He played Brother Sam, an ex-convict who has supposedly found religion despite finding himself in violent situations.[74]

In January 2016, Bey announced his retirement from the music and the film industries on Kanye West's website. In March 2016, it was announced that he had been attached to star in "his last live-action film", The Disconnected, a science fiction thriller dealing with policing, identity, and the intersection of technology and humanity.[75]

Social and political views[edit]

In 2000, paired with Talib Kweli, Bey organized the Hip Hop for Respect project to speak out against police brutality. It was created in response to the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and sought to accumulate 41 artists to the roster, one to match each of the 41 gunshots fired on Diallo.

Bey is well known for his leftist activism.[76] In 2000, he performed a benefit concert for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.[77] In May 2005, Bey, Talib Kweli, R&B singer Martin Luther and City Councilman Charles Barron approached New York City Hall, demanding the withdrawal of the $1 million bounty for Assata Shakur.[78]

In September 2005, Bey released the single "Katrina Clap", renamed "Dollar Day" for True Magic (utilizing the instrumental for New Orleans rappers UTP's "Nolia Clap"). The song is a criticism of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. On the night of the MTV Video Music Awards, Bey pulled up in front of Radio City Music Hall on a flatbed truck and began performing the "Katrina Clap" single in front of a crowd that quickly gathered around him. He was subsequently arrested for not having a public performance permit in his possession.[79]

In October 2006, Bey appeared on 4Real, a documentary television series.[80] Appearing in the episode "City of God", he and the 4Real crew traveled to City of God, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to meet Brazilian MC MV Bill and learn about the crime and social problems of the community.[81]

On September 7, 2007, Bey appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher where he spoke about racism against African Americans, citing the government response to Hurricane Katrina, the Jena Six case, and the murder conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He appeared on Real Time again on March 27, 2009, and spoke about the risk of nuclear weapons.[82]

In September 2011, Bey joined the cast of the environmental children's hip hop musical Pacha's Pajamas: A Story Written By Nature as narrator. In July 2013, he appeared in a short film released by the human rights organization Reprieve, depicting the forced-feeding methods used at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps. This transpired after a document containing the military instructions for the procedure was leaked.[83][84]

In September 2018, Bey and advertising executive Free Richardson opened an art exhibition to the public in an art gallery in the South Bronx, called the Compound, centered around hip-hop and fine art. The goal of this gallery was to help bridge the gap between the two fields, by showcasing artists from marginalized backgrounds who normally would not be represented in art galleries. Art forms with negative connotations, such as graffiti, as presented in a more optimal context. "The purpose of the gallery is to say all art is equal," Richardson said. "But we are in the borough that created hip-hop, which is the biggest art form in the world, so it's always an extending arm. It's always present."[85]


About.com ranked him #14 on its list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time,[6] and The Source ranked him #23 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.[86] AllMusic called him one of the most promising rappers to emerge in the late 1990s,[87] and one of hip-hop's brightest hopes entering the 21st century.[19] He has influenced numerous hip hop artists throughout his career, including Lupe Fiasco, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, and Saigon, and Logic.[88][89][90] Kendrick Lamar once mentioned him as a very early inspiration as a young rapper, though Lamar denied being a part of the conscious rap movement.[91] He has also directly influenced artists outside of hip-hop, including English singer-songwriters Adele and Amy Winehouse.[92][93]

Personal life[edit]

Bey married Maria Yepes in 1996. He filed for divorce from her in 2006.[94] She took him to court over failure in child-support obligations, paying $2,000 short of the monthly $10,000 he had been ordered to pay for their two daughters.[95][96] He has four other children.[97]

His mother managed part of her son's career.[98] She is a motivational speaker, and authored the book Shine Your Light: A Life Skills Workbook, where she details her experience as a single mother raising him.[99]

In January 2016, Bey was ordered to leave South Africa and not return for five years, having stayed in the country illegally on an expired tourist visa granted in May 2013.[100] That month, he was charged with using an unrecognized World Passport and having lived illegally in South Africa since 2014.[101][102] He had reportedly recruited Kanye West to help defend him, and posted a message on West's website announcing his retirement from show business.[103][104] There was a court case in relation to immigration offenses involving him and his family.[105][106] He was allowed to leave South Africa on November 22, 2016, but was barred from coming back.[107]


Solo albums[edit]

Collaborative albums[edit]


Year Film Role Notes
1988 God Bless the Child Richard Watkins
1991 The Hard Way Dead Romeos Gang Member
1997 Ghosts Dante
1998 Where's Marlowe? Wilt Crawley
2000 Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme Himself
Bamboozled Big Blak Afrika Also recorded a song for the movie's soundtrack as part of the fictional rap group Mau Maus
Island of the Dead Robbie J
2001 Carmen: A Hip Hopera Lieutenant Miller
Monster's Ball Ryrus Cooper
2002 Showtime Lazy Boy
Civil Brand Michael Meadows
Brown Sugar Chris 'Cav' Anton Vichon
My Wife and Kids Tommy Episode: "Chair Man of the Board"
2003 The Italian Job Left Ear
2004 The Woodsman Detective Lucas
Something the Lord Made Vivien Thomas Nominated — Black Reel Award for Outstanding Actor, TV Movie or Mini-Series
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated — Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television
2005 Lackawanna Blues The Bandleader
The Boondocks Gangstalicious Voice over for the animated series (2005–2008)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Ford Prefect
2006 Dave Chappelle's Block Party Himself
16 Blocks Eddie Bunker
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Himself Cameo
Journey to the End of the Night Wemba
2007 Prince Among Slaves Narrator
2008 Be Kind Rewind Mike
Cadillac Records Chuck Berry
2009 Next Day Air Eric
House Lee Episode: "Locked In"
2010 I'm Still Here Himself
Bouncing Cats Himself
Yo Gabba Gabba! Super Mr. Superhero Episode: "Superhero"
2011 Dexter Brother Sam Season 6, recurring, (credited as "Mos" in 2 episodes, as "Yasiin Bey" in 3 episodes)
2013 Begin Again Saul as Yasiin Bey
2014 Life of Crime Ordell Robbie as Yasiin Bey
The Getaway Himself Episode: "Yasiin Bey In Morocco"; as Yasiin Bey
2015 Amy Himself as Yasiin Bey


BET Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Best Actor Brown Sugar Nominated [110]
2004 The Italian Job Nominated [111]

Black Movie Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2006 Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role 16 Blocks Nominated [112]

Black Reel Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Outstanding Actor, Independent Film Civil Brand Nominated [113]
2004 Outstanding Supporting Actor The Italian Job Nominated
2005 Outstanding Actor, Independent Film The Woodsman Won
Outstanding Actor, TV Movie or Mini-Series Something the Lord Made Nominated
2008 Outstanding Actor Be Kind Rewind Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor Cadillac Records Nominated

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Actor – Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Something the Lord Made Nominated [114]

Gotham Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2004 Breakthrough Actor The Woodsman Nominated [115]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Urban/Alternative Performance "Sex, Love & Money" Nominated [116]
2006 "Ghetto Rock" Nominated
2007 Best Rap Solo Performance "Undeniable" Nominated
2008 Album of the Year Graduation (as featured artist) Nominated
2010 Best Rap Solo Performance "Casa Bey" Nominated
Best Rap Album The Ecstatic Nominated
2011 Best Short Form Music Video "Stylo" (with Gorillaz and Bobby Womack) Nominated

MOBO Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2000 Best Hip Hop Act Nominated [117]

NAACP Image Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Brown Sugar Nominated
2005 Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Something the Lord Made Nominated [118]
2009 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Cadillac Records Nominated [119]

NAMIC Vision Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Dramatic Performance Something the Lord Made Nominated

Online Film & Television Association Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2004 Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Something the Lord Made Nominated [120]

Primetime Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2004 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Something the Lord Made Nominated [121]

Satellite Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2005 Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Something the Lord Made Nominated [122]

Stinkers Bad Movie Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2006 Most Annoying Fake Accent – Male 16 Blocks Nominated [123]

Teen Choice Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Choice Breakout Movie Actor Brown Sugar Nominated [124]
2005 Choice Movie: Rap Artist The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Nominated [125]


  1. ^ Negus is Yasiin Bey’s fifth studio album, entirely produced by Lord Tusk, Steven Julien, and ACyde and was recorded in London in 2015. Negus was exclusively premiered during Art Basel in Hong Kong on March 29, 2019. According to a press release, the album will never receive a physical or digital release but will be displayed at sound installations around the world.[108]


  1. ^ Reese, Eric (2018). "Rise of Hip-Hop in the 2000's". The History of Hip Hop: Volume 1. Barnes & Noble Press. ISBN 9781538076798.
  2. ^ Johnson, Josh (May 27, 2014). "Steal This Track from Courier GT". The Denver Post. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  3. ^ O'Connor, Christopher (March 29, 2000). "Common Moves Toward a Progressive Hip-Hop". MTV News. Archived from the original on July 15, 2021. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  4. ^ Jason Birchmeier. "Mos Def | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  5. ^ "Mos Def Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "The 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time". Rap.about.com. June 25, 2014. Archived from the original on April 5, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  7. ^ "Mos Def | TV Guide". TVGuide.com. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  8. ^ "Mos Def Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Asadullah, Ali (April 2001). "You're Gonna Serve Somebody". Beliefnet. Retrieved March 11, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Aaron, Charles (August 1, 2009). "The SPIN Interview: Mos Def". spin.com. SpinMedia Group. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Alim, H. Samy (March 10, 2014). "From Brooklyn to Bo-Kaap". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  12. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. "About Mos Def". MTV.com. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  13. ^ Glazer, Joshua (2004). "Manifest Destiny [2004] review". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  14. ^ "Mos Def – The Universal Magnetic / If You Can Huh You Can Hear". Discogs. 1997. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  15. ^ Josephs, Brian (August 24, 2012). "The 50 Best Rawkus Records Songs44. Mos Def 'Universal Magnetic' (1997)". Complex UK. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Vogel, Evan (October 29, 2015). "Throwback Thursday Review: Black Star | Mos Def and Talib Kweli". The Early Registration. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  17. ^ Drake, David (September 24, 2011). "Review: Black Star at the House of Blues". Chicago Tribune.
  18. ^ a b c "Mos Def – Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard chart)". Billboard.com. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Black on Both Sides – Mos Def Review". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  20. ^ "Mos Def – Black On Both Sides". Discogs. October 12, 1999. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Mos Def – Billboard 200 (albums)". Billboard.com. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  22. ^ "Throwback Classic: Scritti Politti & Mos Def – "Tinseltown to Boogiedown"". The Lost Tapes. October 4, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  23. ^ "Scritti Politti – Anomie & Bonhomie". Discogs. 1999. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  24. ^ Coates, Ta-Nehisi (April 20, 2004). "A Fistful of Mighta Been". Village Voice. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Warren, Jamin (October 18, 2004). "Mos Def: The New Danger Album Review". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  26. ^ "Mos Def – The New Danger". Discogs. October 19, 2004. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  27. ^ "Grammy Award nominees in top categories". USAtoday.com. December 7, 2004. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  28. ^ "True Magic Mos Def". Pitchfork.
  29. ^ Hoard, Christian (July 29, 2009). "New Music Report: Mos Def's "The Ecstatic"". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 6, 2014.
  30. ^ "Al Be Back speaks on Mos Def's new CD". Hiphopgame.com. January 15, 2008. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  31. ^ "Hip Hop Single of the Day – Mos Def – Fine (2002)". WeLiveThis.com. Archived from the original on September 16, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  32. ^ "Mos Def Signs to Downtown Recordings, Remixes Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." With Spank Rock | Pitchfork". March 5, 2009. Archived from the original on March 5, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  33. ^ Newman, Kathleen (April 29, 2009). "K'Naan Hopes To Break The U.S. With Help From Mos Def, Adam Levine". MTV.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  34. ^ "Mos Def Live at Cape Town Jazz Fest // 125129". Wearehunted.com. Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  35. ^ "Converse — Connectivity". Converse.com. September 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  36. ^ "UNDRCRWN ~ Footwear & Apparel". Undrcrwn.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2009. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  37. ^ "Damon Dash Brings Artists Together With DD172". MTV News. Archived from the original on September 13, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  38. ^ "Palm Advertising Campaign". YouTube. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  39. ^ Denis, Vanessa (September 27, 2010). "Mos Def Signs With Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Archived from the original on September 30, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  40. ^ Perpetua, Matthew (September 7, 2011). "Mos Def to Retire the Name 'Mos Def'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
  41. ^ "From Mos Def to Yasiin Bey". Elementality.ca. November 20, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  42. ^ Mark Anthony Green (September 11, 2012). "The Artist Formerly Known as Mos Def". GQ.
  43. ^ a b Sean Michaels (September 8, 2011). "Mos Def to change his name in 2012". The Guardian.
  44. ^ "Faces: Yasiin Bey" Archived February 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Yeah, I Love it! Magazine, January 31, 2012.
  45. ^ "A$AP Rocky (Ft. Acyde, A$AP Yams & Yasiin Bey) – Back Home". Genius.com. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  46. ^ "Watch Yasiin Bey's Video for 'Basquiat Ghostwriter'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  47. ^ "Yasiin Bey Revives 'Mos Def' Moniker for 'Sensei on the Block'". Rolling Stone. August 28, 2015. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  48. ^ "Yasiin Bey Takes Over KanyeWest.com, Announces Retirement From Music". Pigeons & Planes. January 19, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  49. ^ a b Schwartz, Danny (October 16, 2016). "Yasiin Bey To Perform Last Show Ever This Week". HNHH. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  50. ^ Powell, Tom (October 14, 2016). "Rap fans 'furious' after Mos Def concert cancelled at last minute". Evening Standard. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  51. ^ Fintoni, Laurent (October 15, 2016). "Yasiin Bey cancels European shows, says he is definitely retiring". FACT. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  52. ^ "Yasiin Bey Says He's Retiring, Will Livestream Final Show From Cape Town". Thefader.com. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  53. ^ "Yasiin Bey Reaffirms Decision to Retire, Plans One Last Concert". Complex. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  54. ^ "Yasiin Bey f.k.a. Mos Def Is Retiring After One Last Show". Hiphopdx.com. October 14, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  55. ^ Schwartz, Danny (November 28, 2016). "Yasiin Bey releases Local Time," "N.A.W." and "Seaside Panic Room from Dec. 99". Hotnewhiphop. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  56. ^ Schwartz, Danny (December 5, 2016). "Yasiin Bey announces last two albums". Hotnewhiphop. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  57. ^ "Black Star featuring Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli – Another Planet Entertainment". apeconcerts.com. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  58. ^ "Gorillaz joined by Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Savages' Jehnny Beth and more on stage at The Meadows". NME. September 17, 2017.
  59. ^ Kim, Michelle; Monroe, Jazz (April 2, 2019). "Yasiin Bey Launches New Project Negus, But Only at Galleries". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  60. ^ "Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) says new music with Black Star, MF Doom, and more "is on deck". Thefader.com. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  61. ^ "Talib Kweli, yasiin bey, and Dave Chappelle Launch The Midnight Miracle Podcast On Luminary". Stupid Dope. May 11, 2021.
  62. ^ Cowen, Trace. "Listen to Black Star's First New Album in 24 Years 'No Fear of Time' Produced by Madlib". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  63. ^ "Mos Def Digital Biography". HipHopScriptures.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  64. ^ "IMDb: Mos Def". IMDb.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  65. ^ Yarbrough, Marti (May 2, 2005). "Cover Story: Mos Def". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. pp. 58–62.
  66. ^ "Yasiin Bey". IMDb. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  67. ^ "Awards Archive". Outercritics.org. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  68. ^ "Is Mos Def the Most Talented Rapper Turned Actor?". Tvovermind.com. June 16, 2017.
  69. ^ "RUSSELL SIMMONS WORKING TO REBOOT 'DEF POETRY JAM'". Tvone.tv. July 17, 2017.
  70. ^ "Mos Def | Television Academy". Emmys.com. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  71. ^ "March 2006 | DANNY GLOVER news". Blackfilm.com. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  72. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (March 30, 2009). "Gold Derby Nuggets". LA Times. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  73. ^ Brantley, Ben (November 18, 2010). "Theater Review – 'A Free Man of Color' – John Guare's 'Free Man of Color' at Vivian Beaumont". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  74. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (May 11, 2011). "Mos Def Joins 'Dexter'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  75. ^ "Slated › Sign In". Slated.com. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  76. ^ Roberts, Roxanne; Amy Argetsinger (July 8, 2013). "Mos Def, aka Yasiin Bey, undergoes force-feeding to protest Guantanamo measures". The Reliable Source. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  77. ^ Odiaga, L.V.R. (May 23, 2000). "Mos Def, Black Thought To Perform At Mumia Benefit". MTV.com. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  78. ^ "Mos Def, Talib Kweli Fight For Exiled Political Activist". MTV News. Archived from the original on November 22, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  79. ^ "Mos Def arrested outside VMAs" Archived November 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Mp3.com. September 1, 2006. Retrieved November 9, 2007
  80. ^ "Mos Def". 4real.com. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  81. ^ "4REAL Mos Def in Cidade de Deuas". 4real.com. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  82. ^ "episode 147". Real Time with Bill Maher. Season 7. Episode 6. March 27, 2009. HBO.
  83. ^ "Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) force-fed under standard Guantánamo Bay procedure – video". The Guardian. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  84. ^ "Yasiin Bey force-feeding video launches campaign to support Guantanamo hunger-strikers". Reprieve.org. July 8, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  85. ^ Lakin, Max (October 3, 2018). "In the Cradle of Hip-Hop, a South Bronx Gallery Bridges a Gap (Published 2018)". The New York Times.
  86. ^ "The Source's Top 50 Lyricists Of All Time **Complete List Inside**". ThisIs50.com. Archived from the original on May 4, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  87. ^ "Mos Def | Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  88. ^ "Mos Def | Similar Artists, Influenced By, Followers". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  89. ^ "Mos Def Followers". MTV. Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  90. ^ "Jay Electronica | Similar Artists, Influenced By, Followers". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  91. ^ Amos Barshad (October 23, 2011). "Kendrick Lamar Makes New Friends". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  92. ^ "ADELE: I'm very excited, nervous, eager, anxious but chuffed to announce my new album!". April 24, 2011. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  93. ^ "Amy Winehouse – Onyx Barber's interview". YouTube. July 23, 2014. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021.
  94. ^ Tang, Melisa (June 29, 2006). "Mos Def Tossed Out of Court | Get The Latest Hip Hop News, Rap News & Hip Hop Album Sales". HipHop DX. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  95. ^ "Daddy Is 'Def' Behind". New York Post. February 15, 2006. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  96. ^ "Mos Def In Court Over Child Support". UPI.com. February 15, 2006. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  97. ^ "Scenes from a hip-hop marriage". TheStar.com. June 29, 2008. Retrieved June 14, 2014. She said there were several attempts at reconciliation, but that Bey, who has six children with four different women, has a demanding though not abusive demeanour that she found difficult to abide. They have not been together since October 2006, but despite a $115,000 financial settlement are not officially divorced.
  98. ^ "Yasiin Bey Would Like You To Quit Calling Him Mos Def". The Awl. June 26, 2012. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  99. ^ "Sheron Smith: Umi Says". All HipHop. March 29, 2007. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  100. ^ "Rapper Mos Def ordered to leave South Africa in passport row". BBC News. January 16, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  101. ^ J.J.C. (January 22, 2016). "A rapper's plight raises the question of who has the right to issue passports". The Economist. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  102. ^ Williams, Stereo How Hip-Hop Lost Mos Def: Yasiin Bey Announces Retirement and Final Album Daily Beast. January 21, 2016
  103. ^ Puente, Maria (January 20, 2016). "Mos Def held on immigration charges in South Africa, family ordered out". USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  104. ^ "Yasiin Bey Announces Retirement, Final Album in Heartfelt Plea for South African Government to Free Him". Vulture. January 20, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  105. ^ Cornelius, Jerome (March 24, 2016). "Mos Def 'World Passport' case postponed". Timeslive.co.za. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  106. ^ SABC. "SABC News – Mos Def set to make another court appearance:Tuesday May 31, 2016". Sabc.co.za. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  107. ^ "Rapper Mos Def allowed to leave South Africa after apology". Reuters. November 22, 2016. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
  108. ^ "Yasiin Bey released his newest album and all I got was a Polaroid of myself". March 29, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  109. ^ "Manifest Destiny [2004] – UTD – Songs, Reviews, Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  110. ^ "50 Cent, B2K Top 2003 BET Awards". Billboard. June 25, 2003.
  111. ^ "Beyonce, Jay-Z win big at BET Awards". Chicago Tribune. June 30, 2004.
  112. ^ "Breaking News – Tyler Perry to Host Film Life's 2006 Black Movie Awards – a Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present & Future, Premiering Wednesday, OcT. 18, on TNT". The Futon Critic. August 31, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2021.
  113. ^ "Black Reel Awards – Past Winners". Black Reel Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  114. ^ "Mos Def – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  115. ^ "Past Recipients". Gotham Awards. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  116. ^ "Mos Def". Grammy Awards. Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  117. ^ "MOBO Awards 2000". MOBO Awards. October 4, 2000.
  118. ^ "Vivica A. FOX , Omar Epps, Hill Harper, Essence Atkins and Ananda Lewis Join Naacp Executives to Announce the '36th Naacp Image Awards' Nominations". The Futon Critic. Retrieved January 19, 2005.
  119. ^ "NAACP Image Awards: Winners list". Entertainment Weekly. February 13, 2009.
  120. ^ "8th Annual TV Awards (2004)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  121. ^ "Mos Def". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved November 13, 2022.
  122. ^ "Nominees & Winners – Satellite™ Awards 2005 (9th Annual Satellite™ Awards)". International Press Academy. Satellite Awards. Archived from the original on February 2, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  123. ^ "Stinkers Bad Movie Awards – 2006 Ballot". The Stinkers. Archived from the original on May 4, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  124. ^ "2003 Teen Choice Awards Nominees". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. June 18, 2003. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  125. ^ "Breaking News – FOX Announces Nominees for "The 2005 Teen Choice Awards" | TheFutonCritic.com". Thefutoncritic.com. Retrieved January 21, 2017.

External links[edit]