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A high level of knowledge of self (determination) is rarely achieved by a hip-hop generation too scared to risk its industry trust funds or too myopic to see beyond mere rhetoric; nonetheless, some have broken though. Mos Def is one such visionary-an MC whose devotion to hip-hop and passion for social consciousness combine with a synergy seldom witnessed in rap history.
Of course, it makes sense that Mos Def would be a child of hip-hop's Golden Era of superhero MCs (Rakim, Big Daddy Kane) and new school leaders (De La Soul, Jungle Brothers). A native Brooklinyte who spent his childhood in neighborhoods like Bedford Stuyesant and East Flatbush, Mos Def grew up in a time where "most of the people who were fans (of hip-hop) were also active fans in the culture in some way. In '88, you'd have kids watching Video Music Box in their living room, working out dance routines." But Mos not only digested all the hip-hop influences around him, he also absorbed knowledge from across the artistic spectrum; be it the jazz meditations of Ahmad Jamal, the pop lyricism of Steely Dan, the evocative prose of Chinua Achebe or the cross-cultural humor of Danny Hoch. Says Mos: "I"m just inspired not just by black art, but good art, representations of art that are sincere and genuine."

Encouraged by his younger brother (Medina Green's DCQ), Mos Def first graced a record with UTD's "My Kung Fu" in 1994. With his signature nasal flow and playful scatting, Mos was clearly a talent to watch, and despite UTD's all-too-brief existence, Mos would go on to make indelible cameo appearances on songs like the Bush Babee's "Love Song" and De La Soul's "Big Brother Beat." The discriminating rap connoisseur could detect in Mos Def a range of talent that is tremendous; he had the good-natured charisma to appeal to a crossover audience but also the deft, clever rhyme skills so treasured in the underground.

Biography Courtesy of Rawkus Records