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Style & Culture

Trip Down Memory Lane: Mos Def in various groups, then solo

Along with Common, Dante Terrell Smith, or Mos Def, began his diverse career as a conscious hip-hop rapper in the mid ’90s. Mos Def got his start in hip-hop by joining a group called Urban Thermo Dynamics. Before releasing any solo work, Mos Def appeared on Da Bush Babees album “Gravity” and De La Soul’s album “Stakes is High.”

In 1998, Mos Def formed yet another group with fellow rapper, Talib Kweli, by the name of Black Star. Their self-titled album spawned favorable reviews and helped start the careers of both rappers. The album spawned two singles, the latter of which featured Common. That same year, Mos Def released his first solo single, “Universally Magnetic.” Kweli would go on to feature in most of Mos Def’s solo albums.

Fall of 1999 saw the release of Mos Def’s debut solo effort titled “Black on Both Sides.”

The album, in the style of The Roots, features live instruments. The album featured guest appearances by Busta Rhymes, Kweli and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. The album produced two singles and was certified Gold by the RIAA.

Mos Def released his follow up record was released 5 years later in 2004 under the title “The New Danger.” The album sticks to his original form and incorporates more jazz influences. One song in particular off of “The New Danger” titled “Close Edge” is a prime example of Mos Def’s fantastic rhyming ability. Taking a sample from “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash, Mos Def rhymes: “They all talk fast and they all think slow / I’m Mos Definite, not think so / Flood your city with the black ink flow / And my crew ain’t scared to let them things go.” His flow is unmistakably unique on this song and completely changes the tone of quite possibly the most famous song in hip-hop.

Mos Def released his third record, “True Magic,” in 2006, which received very limited distribution. The CD itself was different in that it was released in a clear case without any cover art. His fourth record, “The Ecstatic,” was released in 2009. “The Ecstatic” won a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 52ndGrammy Awards. From the album came five singles, the final of which, “History,” featured Kweli. “The Ecstatic” don’t abandon the jazz element of “The New Danger,” however, the element is not as prevalent, as a Middle Eastern sound takes over a good portion of the album. Overall, the sound sticks to a more modern feel.

Much like fellow conscious rapper Common, Mos Def tried his hand in acting as well. He has had roles in movies like “The Italian Job,” “The Hichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Be Kind Rewind.” Recently, he has been featured on the hit tv-show Dexter.

Last year, he announced that he planned on going under the name Yasiin Bey instead of Mos Def. As for his future in music, earlier this year it was announced that Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli were beginning to put together another Black Star album.