Like Ziggy Stardust before him, Mos Def knows the value of a good stage trick, some moniker-based sleight of hand. His decision to shelve "Mos Def" in 2011 in favor of "Yasiin Bey" struck some as a puzzling move, but it makes sense. Mos Def is as much an actor as rapper, with roles in Dexter and parts in films like Be Kind Rewind and Cadillac Records; the name Yasiin Bey is a clean slate. But Def didn't exactly pull a "Father John Misty"; his fliers, like the one for his upcoming Celebrity Theatre performance, still list "a.k.a. Mos Def" in case anyone is confused. Whether this represents some wavering on the rebranding decision is beside the point. Def raps like he acts, embodying characters and ideologies, and last year's "Bey" showcased a brash, nearly punk mentality veering away from his backpacking, "conscious" hip-hop records as Mos Def. "My black is brighter than the dark," he spits over sputtering synths and hard snare clicks. His sneer is not unlike that of Kanye West, who signed Def/Bey to G.O.O.D. Music last year. Where he goes next is unclear, but he's clearly enjoying the freedom of a new guise.
Recommended For You
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!