Happy 20th Anniversary to Mos Def and his solo debut album “Black on Both Sides.” The album was released on October 12, 1999, by Rawkus and Priority Records. This album would be the follow up to the collaboration with Talib Kweli on their album “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star” in 1998 which lead to the album having high expectations for a solo effort. “Black on Both Sides” features the single “Ms. Fat Booty/Mathematics” and, “Umi Says” and featured an emphasis on live instruments and socially conscious lyrics. On February 2, 2000, the album was certified Gold in sales by the RIAA, following sales in excess of 500,000 copies. The single “Ms. Fat Booty” charted, while the album reached #25 on the Billboard
Mos Def, born and raised in Brooklyn, began his hip hop career in 1994 in the group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD), along with his younger brother DCQ and younger sister Ces. In 2004, they released the album Manifest Destiny, their first and only release to date. The album features a compilation of previously unreleased and re-released tracks recorded during the original UTD run. Mos Def went on to appear on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. In 1998 he teamed up with fellow Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli and they formed the duo Black Star. They released their album “Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star” in 1998. The next year Mos Def would be featured on the roster of Rawkus Records and in 1999 released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides. His debut was followed by The New Danger (2004), True Magic (2006) and The Ecstatic (2009).
Prior to his career in music, Mos Def entered public life as a child actor, having landed the role of the oldest child on the show “You Take the Kids” and even played opposite of Bill Cosby on the show “Bill Cosby’s Mysteries.” Besides TV he also acted in theater off-Broadway and appeared in 10 films and appearances in two series. Mos def also hosted Def Poetry Jam which aired on HBO from 2002 to 2007.
Mos Def was ranked #14 on the list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time, by about.com while The Source ranked him #23 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time and called one of the most promising rappers to emerge in the late 1990s as well as one of hip-hop’s brightest hopes entering the 21st century. Mos Def has influenced numerous hip hop artists throughout his career, including Lupe Fiasco, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, Saigon, and Kendrick Lamar has also mentioned Mos Def as a very early inspiration and someone he listened to “coming up” as a young rapper, though he denied being a part of the conscious rap movement. The album Black on Both Sides has tacks where he raps about his hometown, Brooklyn and his love for hip hop but Black on Both Sides also deals with racial profiling of Black men in America, with the track Mr. N**ga.
The album “Black on Both Sides” managed to stand out in a time where hip hop was changing from gangster rap to the bling era. Mos Def continued the wave of social rap that artist like Common had started and was known for. Mos Def single “Ms. Fatbooty” showcases his storytelling while his other single “Umi Says” he uses his singing ability to express the social and global changes he was witnessing. With production from DJ Premier and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe called Quest and even a young 88 Keys and featured Busta Rhymes, Q-tip and Talib Kweli making this album am hip hop heavyweight. Black On Both Sides is an extraordinary solo debut album that had an unlikely commercial success, an influential album that was unapologetically black and it made noise in the mainstream, the best album ever from Mos Def. Def’s music often references his Islamic faith and his contention that black artists receive little credit for their role in the birth of rock and roll music. Socially aware rap music had experienced something of a re-birth in the late 1990s and now the 2000s. “Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are … Blackstar” Mos Def’s collaboration with Talib Kweli and then Mos Def’s solo album “, Black on Both Sides,” was released during the aftermath of the deaths of 2pac and The Notorious B.I.G. sparking a rebirth of “aware” and “intelligent” hip-hop.
Salute Mos Def aka Yasin Bey on your 20th year Anniversary of Black on Both Sides and continued peace and success.