Mos Def (born Dante Terrell Smith on December 11, 1973) is a critically acclaimed rapper and actor. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and is an American Muslim convert. He goes by the stage names Mighty Mos Def, The Freaky Night Watchman, Boogie Man, Black Dante, Dante Beze, Pretty Flaco, and Flaco Bey.
Mos Def began his music career with the short-lived group Urban Thermo Dynamics with his younger brother DCQ, and his younger sister Ces. Despite their contract with Payday Records, the group only released two singles and the group's debut album, Manifest Destiny, did not see the light of day until 2004 (see 2004 in music) when it was released through Illson Media. In 1996, he emerged as a solo artist and worked with De La Soul and da Bush Babees, before he released his own first single, "Universal Magnetic", which was a huge underground hit.
After signing with Rawkus Records, Mos Def and Talib Kweli formed the group, Black Star, and released a full length album under the name, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star. The album was released in 1998 and featured Hi-Tek producing most of the tracks.
Mos Def released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, in 1999 (see 1999 in music). Def was also featured on Rawkus influential Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing series compilations. After the collapse of Rawkus, he and Kweli signed on to Interscope/Geffen Records, which released his second solo album, The New Danger, in 2004. Mos Def has drawn some criticism from his fan base about "keeping it real" since he appeared in a commercial that endorsed the GMC Denali sport utility vehicle.  Mos Def was set to release his last solo album on Geffen Records, True Magic, on September 19, 2006, but that release date has been delayed to December 12.
Mos Def & Talib Kweli - Black Star (28 August 1998: Rawkus/UMVD)
While Puff Daddy and his followers continued to dictate the direction hip-hop would take into the millennium, Mos Def and Talib Kweli surfaced from the underground to pull the sounds in the opposite direction. Their 13 rhyme fests on this superior, self-titled debut as Black Star show that old-school rap still sounds surprisingly fresh in the sea of overblown vanity productions. There's no slack evident in the tight wordplays of Def and Kweli as they twist and turn through sparse, jazz-rooted rhythms calling out for awareness and freedom of the mind. Their viewpoints stem directly from the teachings of Marcus Garvey, the legendary activist who fought for the rights of blacks all around the world in the first half of the 20th century. Def and Kweli's ideals are sure lofty; not only are they out to preach Garvey's words, but they also hope to purge rap music of its negativity and violence. For the most part, it works. Their wisdom-first philosophy hits hard when played off their lyrical intensity, a bass-first production, and stellar scratching. While these MCs don't have all of the vocal pizzazz of A Tribe Called Quest's Phife and Q-Tip at their best, flawless tracks like the cool bop of "K.O.S. (Determination)" and "Definition" hint that Black Star is only the first of many brilliantly executed positive statements for these two street poets.
Click To Download
Mos Def - Black on Both Sides (Oct 12, 1999: Rawkus/UMVD)
Mos Def's partnership with Talib Kweli produced one of the most important hip-hop albums of the late '90s, 1997's brilliant Black Star. Consciously designed as a return to rap's musical foundations and a manifesto for reclaiming the art form from gangsta/playa domination, it succeeded mightily on both counts, raising expectations sky-high for Mos Def's solo debut. He met them all with Black on Both Sides, a record every bit as dazzling and visionary as Black Star. Black on Both Sides strives to not only refine but expand the scope of Mos Def's talents, turning the solo spotlight on his intricate wordplay and nimble rhythmic skills — but also his increasing eclecticism. The main reference points are pretty much the same — old-school rap, which allows for a sense of playfulness as well as history, and the Native Tongues posse's fascination with jazz, both for its sophistication and cultural heritage. But they're supported by a rich depth that comes from forays into reggae (as well as its aura of spiritual conscience), pop, soul, funk, and even hardcore punk (that on the album's centerpiece, "Rock n Roll," a dissection of white America's history of appropriating black musical innovations). In keeping with his goal of restoring hip-hop's sociopolitical consciousness, Def's lyrics are as intelligent and thoughtfully crafted as one would expect, but he doesn't stop there — he sings quite passably on several tracks, plays live instruments on others (including bass, drums, congas, vibraphone, and keyboards), and even collaborates on a string arrangement. In short, Black on Both Sides is a tour de force by an artist out to prove he can do it all. Its ambition and execution rank it as one of the best albums of 1999, and it consolidates Mos Def's position as one of hip-hop's brightest hopes entering the 21st century.
Click To Download
Mos Def - The New Danger (Oct 19, 2004: Rawkus/Geffen)
When it takes you five years to follow up a debut of near-landmark stature, you're setting yourself up for failure. Mos Def's second solo album is not disastrous, but it's a sprawling, overambitious mess. A handful of songs from this 75-minute affair feature Black Jack Johnson, the rock band Mos set up with some very respected musicians: bassist Doug Wimbish (Sugar Hill house band, Living Colour), drummer Will Calhoun (Living Colour), guitarist Dr. Know (Bad Brains), and keyboardist Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic). While that's a deadly cast of support, those guests seem to have gone into this inspired more by the negligible rap-meets-rock Judgment Night soundtrack than their own past work. The grooves and riffs are basic (of the dull variety), and the vocals rarely surpass echo-heavy shouts of "Let's go!" "Come with it!" and "F*ck you, pay me!" As poor as those songs are, the lowest point of the album is "The Rape Over," a rewrite of Jay-Z's "The Takeover" that jacks Kanye West's beat from same that, for all its sharp rage, is ruined by the line "Quasi-homosexuals is running this rap sh*t" (it's not a boast). Unsurprisingly, the hottest moments tend to come when Mos sticks to what he does best. One slight exception to this is "Modern Marvel," a nine-minute suite smeared with a series of Marvin Gaye samples. Mos sings in whispers (he makes Pharrell sound like Luther, but he has the required spirit), momentum floats in as easy as a light breeze, and then the MC shifts into goosepimple-raising mode. Throughout the whole thing, Mos Def's conviction is apparent. Even with that in his favor, in addition to considering the extra-genre dabblings on Black on Both Sides, The New Danger sounds confused. It should've taken Mos at least three more records for him to reach this state of restless aimlessness. What grates most is that Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstract, the best out of the rash of horizon-broadening records from rap artists the past few years, remains unreleased.
Click To Download
Mos Def - Tru3 Magic (December 19, 2006: Geffen Records)
Tru3 Magic is the third solo album from New York rapper Mos Def. It will be his last album on Geffen Records and was set to be released on September 19, 2006. It has since been pushed back to January 7, 2007. Tru3 Magic features production from The Neptunes, Kanye West, Rich Harrison, 9th Wonder, Minnesota and RJD2, among others. 88 Keys, Q-Tip and Tricky have also been rumored to be contributing.
01. Tru3 Magic 2:51
02. Undeniable 4:16
03. U R the One 3:58
04. Thug Is A Drug 2:52
05. Crime & Medicine 3:08
06. A Ha 2:35
07. Dollar Day (Surprise, Surprise) 5:14
08. Napoleon Dynamite 2:01
09. There Is A Way 3:27
10. Sun, Moon, Stars 4:39
11. Murder of A Teenage Life 3:25
12. Fake Bonanza 4:11
13. Perfect Timing 4:13
14. Lifetime 5:47
Click To Download