Urban Thermo Dynamics was his first group with his siblings. He began working solo in 1996 with De La Soul and da Bush Babees before his first single came out, Universal Magnetic. Working with Talib Kweli, he formed Black Star in 1998. His first solo album came out in 1999, Black on Both Sides, and his second, The New Danger, in 2004. Despite saying that he wasn't "down with that commercial nonsense" and that he wouldn't do an album with JayZ and RocAFella for that reason, he still made a commercial for General Motors that made his fans wonder. Still, Mos Def "keeps it real" with his fan-base by his 'real' lyrics and his excellent movie portrayals.
From the Public Enemy and CL Smooth days of sophisticated and socially conscious rap to the 'gangsta' rap of the '90's, this genre of 'music' has been changing again thanks to artists such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common and more. It has been called "aware" and "intelligent" hip hop (wikipedia 2006).
There are references to Mos Def's Islamic roots in his work. One song from The New Danger album, The Rape Over, is said to be anti-semitic for referring to Lyor Cohen (as the "tall Israeli"). Record executives made Mos Def remove this song temporarily.
Other controvery has stemmed from the song Katrina Clap which was critical of the response time by government administration to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in LA. Of the dozens of songs Mos Def has written, this paper will review four of cultural relevance.
The second focus of Mos Def's career has been performing in movies. He began this part of his life at 14 with a television movie, God Bless the Child. After that he got a part in a sitcom called You Take The Kids with Nell Carter. But he was most noticed when he played the part of Bill Cosby's sidekick in The Cosby Mysteries. It was after these jobs that he began the hip hop work.
The new century has seen Mos Def break through in acting with roles in Bamboozled, Monster's Ball, and Brown Sugar, for which he received two awards (wikipedia 2006). Following this he was "Left Ear" in The Italian Job, and "Detective Sgt. Lucas in The Woodsman, winning the Black Reel Awards for Best Actor in 2005. His portrayal of real life doctor, Vivien Thomas, in HBO's Something the Lord Made will be considered later within this paper.
Beside these movie roles, Mos Def has also performed on Broadway in Topdog/Underdog, a Tony-nominated and Pulitzer-winning play. He has been on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show, and hosted the MOBO awards in London. And he has been the host of HBO's Def Poetry show since it began 6 years ago. He is also now showing in 16 Blocks with Bruce Willis. There are 3 more movies for which he is filming or in pre-production.
The reason I chose Mos Def for the focus of this paper is because of my strong admiration for his work overall, for his strength of dedication to his lifestyle and for the impact he has made