By FLAVIA DIMA
I had expected rapper/movie actor MosDef to re-enter the spotlight somewhat differently. Mos, now styling himself as Yasiin Bey, has recently accepted to take part in a daring experiment initiated by those over at The Guardian: basically, he volunteered to be subjected to Gitmo’s* standard procedure for force-feeding inmates, and it’s not pretty.
*Gitmo, short for Guantanamo Bay, is an American detention camp situated in Cuba, where inmates are held in connection to The War on Terror initiated by the Bush Administration. Among other atrocities, the standard procedure for force-feeding hunger strikers involves strapping them to a chair and forcefully inserting a feeding tube down one of their nostrils down to their stomach. This procedure usually takes two hours to complete and is carried out twice a day, for more than 2/3 of its prisoners.A while after watching the clip, I put on his classic debut, Black on Both Sides, and thought: “Damn, this guy is just an all-around great person.” His involvement in the Gitmo reenactment video seems to haverenewed interest in his music, and that’s great.
Released in ’99, Black on Both Sides hasn’t since lost any of its freshness. When it came out it electrified the hip-hop scene, selling half a million records and achieving Gold Certification in less than half a year. Indeed, his style set a new standard for hip-hop music: socially-oriented lyrics sung over live instrumentation or tasteful samples.
But the one thing I respect most about this guy’s work is his approach to words. They shun what recently seems to be the standard in rap lyricism (namely materialism and opulence, the objectification of women or references to weed) and go for a sensitive and narrative approach. Mos knows that there’s many wrong things going on in the world, bu tinstead of inciting violence, he urges his listeners to think and to emancipate themselves. As he puts it in Umi Says, “shine your light for the world to see”.
The best part about MosDef is that he rejects establishing himself as a Messiah – it’s really all about this guy from Brooklyn who sings and has a thing or two to say. The worst part is the fact that few rappers have the same work ethic as he does.
TRACKLIST: (Flavia’s choices in bold)
*By clicking on the titles, you will be redirected to the Youtube video*
1. “Fear Not of Man”
2. “Hip Hop”
4. “Ms. Fat Booty”
5. “Speed Law”
6. “Do It Now” (featuring Busta Rhymes)
8. “Umi Says”
9. “New World Water”
10. “Rock n Roll”
11. “Know That” (featuring TalibKweli)
12. “Climb” (featuring ViniaMojica)
15. “Mr. Nigga” (featuring Q-Tip)
EDITOR’s NOTE: When Flavia told me about Mos Def she started the story as above. I instanly became interested and wanted to see the video made by The Guardian. With tears in my eyes, I Googled this guy up and guess what I found out? Besides being a really strong and caring human being, Mos Def knows how to rock his closet. I really love his sense of style, nothing like you would’ve expected from a hip-hoper. Convince yourself!
YOU CAN BUY HIS ALBUM ON AMAZON FOR ONLY $ 9.99 :)