Mos Def (born Dante Terrell Smith on December 11, 1973) is a Brooklyn-born rapper and actor, who began his performing career on the television show The Cosby Mysteries in 1994. In 1994, Mos also began his music career, forming the shortly lived Urban Thermo Dynamics with his younger brother DCQ, and his younger sister Ces. Despite being signed to Payday Records, the group only released two singles and the groups debut album, Manifest Destiny, did not see the light of day until 2004 when released through Illson Media. In 1996 he emerged as a solo arist, working with De La Soul and da Bush Babees before releasing his own first single, "Universal Magnetic" which was a huge underground hit. After signing with Rawkus Records, he and Talib Kweli released Black Star, a full length album, in 1998, with Hi-Tek producing most of the tracks. Mos Def released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, in 1999. After the collapse of Rawkus, Def along with Kweli signed on to Interscope/Geffen Records, who released his second album The New Danger in 2004.
The artistic boundaries of rap music had been redefined by artists such as Brand Nubian, De La Soul, and Public Enemy, whose music was more thematically sophisticated and socially conscious than that of their predecessors. By the early 1990s however, this brand of rap had been eclipsed in popularity by gangsta rap. Socially aware rap music (alternative hip hop) has experienced something of a renaissance in the late 1990s and now the 2000s, in part due to artists such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, The Roots and others. 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.
The first years of the 2000s have established Mos Def as a notable actor. His performances in Brown Sugar, Monster's Ball, and the HBO made-for-TV film Something The Lord Made have been particularly acclaimed by critics. He also landed the role of Ford Prefect in the long-awaited 2005 movie adaption of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In 2004, he hosted the MOBO awards in London, after the original presenter, Pharrell Williams pulled out at the last minute.
Since the beginning of Def Poetry Jam, the award-winning spoken word show, he has been the host. The fifth season will be aired in 2005.… Expand