Regarded as one of hip-hop’s most introspective and insightful artists, Mos Def has shaped a career that transcends music genres and artistic medium. Taking a cue from the Afrocentric stylings of the Native Tongues crew, which included De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and Andres Titus, Mos Def has emerged as one of the more conscientious voices of new school hip-hop, alongside the likes of Common, Outkast, Goodie Mob and The Roots, to name just a few.
Mos Def was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Sheron Smith and Abdul Rahman. A child of hip-hop’s Golden Era, he spent his childhood imbedded in the culture surrounding him as well as absorbing knowledge from across the artistic spectrum. With the release of “Universal Magnetic” (1996) Mos became an underground favorite in the hip hop world, leading to his legendary collaboration with Talib Kweli. The two formed Black Star whose debut album, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, would become one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums. Mos followed that release with his 1999 solo debut, Black On Both Sides, which was certified gold and credited by critics as bringing hip-hop back to its soapbox roots. As with his music, Mos has demonstrated insight and passion with his acting career, appearing in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera, 2002’s critically acclaimed Monster’s Ball, Showtime, and the 2002 romantic comedy Brown Sugar, for which he received an NAACP Image Award nomination. In addition Mos has served as the host, music supervisor and co-executive producer for the HBO series Def Poetry and served as a writer, producer and actor on the MTV sketch comedy series Lyricist Lounge. Mos completed his Broadway debut in 2002 in the Tony nominated, Pulitzer Prize winning, Topdog/Underdog. Mos re-teamed with Topdog playwright, Suzan Lori Parks and director George Wolfe for an off-Broadway play for which he was awarded an Obie Award. In 2003, Mos Def starred in Paramount Pictures’ The Italian Job, alongside Ed Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. Last year Mos Def starred opposite Alan Rickman in the critically acclaimed HBO movie Something the Lord Made, for which he has received a 2004 Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie. Def was also nominated for both a Golden Globe Award (Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture) and Golden Satellite Award (Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television) for the same role. He co-starred in the feature film The Woodsman, with Kevin Bacon, Benjamin Bratt, Eve and Kyra Sedgwick. The New York Times said of his performance, “I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer to see him in a big-screen leading role,” and USA Today heralded him as “the movie’s best performance.” In addition, he co-starred in Spyglass Entertainment’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, released in April 2005. In the film, an adaptation of the classic Douglas Adams Science Fiction novel, Def starred as hero “Ford Prefect.”
Mos Def released his highly-anticipated and critically acclaimed sophomore solo release, The New Danger (Geffen Records), on October 12th. The album was met with praise from both critics and fans alike, with Rolling Stone giving it 4 Stars and hailing the album as “Ghetto rock and righteous hip-hop from dazzingly talented Def” and the New York Daily News proclaimed “No one is doing more to change our notion of how hip hop can sound.” The first single, “Sex, Love and Money’ earned Def a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative/Urban Performance and the album was certified gold by the RIAA.
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