20 of the Best Yasiin Bey Songs
Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, is, in many ways, the quintessential definition of a rapper's rapper. He is next level with the bars, has a distinct vocal cadence that sets him apart from his peers -- he was delivering sing-song rhymes on wax before it was the norm -- and has a universal likability that's undeniable.
This all harkens back to an image of the original MC that doesn't prescribe to any particular norm. He's not overly tough, but can handle himself, and not exclusively revolutionary, although he's known for being incredibly insightful with his social commentary. By not being an apparent extreme, he becomes a relatable common man, which is an admirable quality in today's hip-hop landscape.
Having risen to prominence alongside his one-time outspoken partner in rhyme Talib Kweli as half of the duo Black Star, he helped make Rawkus Records a household name with his hook on the classic record "Definition." After the massive success of his debut solo album, Black on Both Sides, with staples like "Ms Fat Booty," "Mathematics" and "Umi Says," he branched out into big-screen features. He appeared in films like Brown Sugar, The Italian Job and Please Be Kind, Rewind. He's also known for dabbling in the fashion world, appearing in ads for brands like House A. Sauvage, posing for GQ and making Fashion Week appearances.
Most recently, he's been making headlines for his struggle to leave South Africa, where he'd been living since 2013, with his family. He was arrested in January after trying to leave the country on a World Government of World Citizens passport, which South Africa does not recognize as a legal travel document. During this period, after much reflection -- and a disdain for the direction of the music industry on the whole -- he announced to fans that following a final 2016 release, he would be retiring from music. Having since returned to America, he's announced his final shows and album. As a bittersweet bonus, he announced his last project would really be three separate releases, as he apparently is emptying his stash. This includes a collaborative project with Mannie Fresh.
After premiering some of this new music at Art Basel in Miami, fans are eager for the new body of work -- the first of which is set to be Dec 99th -- from the beloved Brooklyn rapper. As we enter the potential home stretch of Yasiin's career, which spans 16 years from his debut, we've taken the time to go through his crates and pull out 20 of his best songs. So sit back and take a trip with the Travelin' Man.