Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, was born on December 11, 1973. He is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter who began his hip-hop career in 1994. In 1998, he created the duo Black Star with fellow Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli, and published their self-titled first album, which included the singles ‘Definition’ and ‘Respiration.’ He was signed to Rawkus Records and released his solo debut, “Black on Both Sides,” in 1999.
Mos Def, born Dante Terrell Smith Bey on December 11, 1973, in Brooklyn, N.Y.C., began rapping at nine and professional acting at 14. He was the eldest of 12 children and stepchildren and grew up with his mother while his father lived in New Jersey. Initially regarded as one of the most promising rappers to emerge in the late 1990s, Def later turned to acting as music became a secondary concern for him. Following high school, he began playing various television roles, most notably on the short-lived series, “The Cosby Mysteries” in 1994. Def formed the rap group “Urban Thermo Dynamics” with his younger brother and sister in 1994 and signed a record deal that didn’t pan out. His solo career began in 1996 with guest appearances on “Big Brother Beat” and “S.O.S.”
Def released his debut single, ‘Universal Magnetic,’ in 1997, and it became an underground hit. His classic breakthrough albums “Black Star” (1998) and “Black on Both Sides” (1999) were revered, all the more so as time passed. Despite appearances on the compilation series “Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing.” Def frequently used his celebrity image for political purposes, such as protesting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Jena Six incident in 2007. Def appeared in several films like “Monster’s Ball,” “Bamboozled,” “Brown Sugar,” and “The Woodsman,” and even appeared on Broadway (in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog) in the early 2000s. In 2004, he released his second solo album, “The New Danger,” on which he collaborated with Black Jack Johnson on a few tracks.
Def released his third solo album, “True Magic,” two years later, and its single ‘Undeniable’ received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance. “The Ecstatic” was released in 2009 on the distributed Downtown label. He had significant acting roles in Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind” co-starring Jack Black, and “Cadillac Records.” In January 2016, he announced his retirement from the entertainment industry and the upcoming release of his final album.
He makes his television debut at 14 in the A.B.C. film “God Bless the Child.”
He plays the oldest child, Raymond Kirkland, in the 1990 family sitcom “You Take the Kids” which cancels shortly after premiering.
Def joins Talib Kweli's group, "Black Star" after signing with Rawkus Records.
Def's solo debut album “Black on Both Sides” is released in October by Rawkus Records.
Def's long-awaited second solo album, “The New Danger,” is released in October 2004, debuting at number five on the Billboard album chart.
Why We Love Mos Def
His influence on other artists
Def has influenced many hip-hop artists. Some examples include Lupe Fiasco, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, and Saigon.
His service to his community
Def is well known for his philanthropic activities. He contributes to his community and has worked with organizations such as Be the Change and the Common Ground Foundation.
He is a powerhouse of talent
Despite the massive success of his music, Def returned to acting and excelled once more. He delivered memorable performances in films such as “Showtime,” “Bamboozled,” “The Italian Job,” “Carmen: A Hip-Hopera,” and “Monster's Ball.”
5 Surprising Facts
His extradition from South Africa
Def was ordered to leave South Africa and not return for five years in January 2016, after staying in the country illegally on an expired tourist visa issued in May 2013.
He is a family man
Def married Maria Yepes in 1996, and although they split, they had two daughters — Jauhara Smith, and Chandani Smith.
His designer skills
Def has created two limited edition Converse shoes.
He was also a host
Def was the host of H.B.O’s “Def Poetry Jam” between 2002 and 2007.
His father was Muslim
His father was initially a member of the Nation of Islam.
Mos Def FAQs
What are Mos Def’s hobbies?
Def enjoys old-school hip-hop, such as A Tribe Called Quest. He also relishes writing and believes he can be a change agent for the people he influences.
Who is Mos Def married to?
From 1996 to 2005, Def was married to Maria Yepes. In 2005, he married Alana Wyatt, and the couple has been together ever since.
What brands does Mos Def endorse?
Def’s endorsements include Louis Vuitton, Visa, and G.M.C.
Mos Def’s birthday dates