Where Is Mos Def Now? Yasiin Beys Journey and Legacy

June 6, 2024

Born Dante Terrell Smith on December 11, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York City, Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, grew up in a large family. He is the eldest of 12 children and step-children and was raised primarily by his mother, Sheron, while his father, Abdulrahman, lived in New Jersey and was part of the Nation of Islam before following Imam Warith Deen Mohammed.

"Mos Def" by wonker is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Early Life and Exposure to Islam

Yasiin Bey was introduced to Islam at the age of 13 through close friends who were fellow Muslim hip-hop artists, such as Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Q-Tip. He attended Philippa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he developed an interest in acting and managed to avoid falling into criminal activities prevalent during the crack epidemic.

Music Career

Beginnings and Breakthrough

Yasiin launched his career in 1994 by forming the group UTD with his brother DCQ and friend Ces. As a solo artist, he emerged in 1996, leading to significant collaborations with De La Soul and Da Bush Babees.

Black Star

"Blackstar Feat Mos Def Live Concert @ Dour Festival-4379" by Kmeron is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

In 1998, Yasiin Bey formed the duo Black Star with Talib Kweli, releasing the influential album "Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star."

Solo Career

Yasiin released several solo albums, including "Black on Both Sides" (1999), "The New Danger" (2004), "True Magic" (2006), and "The Ecstatic" (2009). His notable single "Oh No" with Pharoahe Monch and Nate Dogg charted on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2011, he announced his name change from Mos Def to Yasiin Bey, expressing that he began to fear Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person. Although he announced his retirement from the music industry in 2016, he continued to release music, including the album "No Fear of Time" in 2022.

Acting Career

Child Actor to Established Performer

Starting as a child actor, Yasiin Bey appeared in various television roles before moving on to notable performances in films like "The Italian Job," "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and "Cadillac Records." His role in "Something the Lord Made" earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

Theater and Television

Yasiin also made his mark on Broadway in "Topdog/Underdog" (2002) and hosted HBO’s "Def Poetry Jam." He took on recurring roles in television series like "Dexter" and "House."

Social and Political Activism

Hip Hop for Respect

Yasiin organized the project Hip Hop for Respect to speak out against police brutality in response to the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999.

Advocacy and Leftist Activism

He has participated in benefit concerts for death row inmates, raised awareness about the Gulf oil spill, and publicly opposed U.S. administration policies.

"Mos Def" by wonker is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Guantanamo Bay Force-Feeding Video

In a video depicting forced-feeding methods used at Guantanamo Bay detention camps, Yasiin Bey highlighted human rights abuses and drew attention to the plight of detainees.


Influence in Hip Hop

Yasiin Bey is ranked highly among the greatest MCs and lyricists of all time, having influenced artists across various genres with his meaningful social and political commentary in his music.

Continued Influence

Despite announcing retirement, Yasiin Bey continues to impact the music industry and collaborate on various projects, maintaining his relevance and inspiring new generations of artists.

Personal Life

Family and Personal Challenges

Yasiin has faced numerous personal challenges, including divorce and child support disputes. His mother, Sheron "Umi" Smith, managed portions of his career.

Legal Issues

Yasiin encountered immigration issues in South Africa, including living illegally due to an expired visa and facing court cases related to immigration offenses.

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