News: Mos Def Says Fear Forced Him To Pull Trigger On Name Change

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 4:05PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

Brooklyn rapper Yasiin Bey has delved into his reasoning behind switching up a rap alias he made famous for nearly 20 years and why there is no turning back now.

Along with his name change, Yasiin talked about the importance of hip-hop and fashion preferences.

"I began to fear that Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person, so I've been going by Yasiin since '99. At first it was just for friends and family, but now I'm declaring it openly," he said in an interview. "When my paternal grandfather passed a few years back, I started to wear a shirt and tie every day, like he did. Michael Jackson's death had a big impact on me, too. Right before the Ecstatic tour in 2009, I began wearing loafers and high-waisted pants. And that's where my look started. ... Hip-hop is the last true folk art. I got involved with Ale et Ange because it represents hip-hop in a way that isn't pandering. It's nice to see something that's elegant, skillful, and raw." (GQ)

Last September, Mos broke the news of his name-change plans.

"I'm retiring the Mos Def name after 2011. I'm actually doing it. Yasiin. That's it," he revealed. "Mos Def is a name that I built and cultivated over the years, it's a name that the streets taught me, a figure of speech that was given to me by the culture and by my environment and I feel I've done quite a bit with that name and it's time to expand and move on. Also, I didn't want to have to deal with having any moniker or any separation between the self that I see and know myself as." (Sucker Free)

Mos Def affiliate DJ Stimulus previously talked to SOHH and offered his take on the rap veteran's unexpected decision.

"First of all, he must have a good reason for doing it," Stimulus told SOHH referring to Mos Def's plan to retire his name. "Overall, if it has something to do with branding, it could make sense. One thing I respect about him as an artist is that I look at him as such, like a full artist. So sometimes when people step away from a name, it's about the connotations that come with the name. I think in his case, maybe he feels like the connotation [places limits upon him] him as an emcee whereas he's so much more. He sings, he acts, his acting career is great and unlike a lot of 'rappers' that are actors, he was in theater from very early on and did the emceeing too. It just depends on how he approaches his music -- he's a full fledged artist and he's been very successful at exposing people to every angle. Now he's going to be in the next season of [Showtime television series] 'Dexter.' He's in funny movies, serious movies, singing, jazz -- he's a full fledged artist and maybe he's just looking to have a name that encompasses more or doesn't have such an emcee connotation. I don't know." (SOHH)

Back in 2010, he officially joined forces with rap star Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music team.

The Brooklyn MC and West talk about the deal and break down their musical relationship in the October issue of XXL, which comes out on Tuesday and features a Kanye cover story. And Mos Def makes an appearance on West's G.O.O.D. Friday single "Lord, Lord, Lord," along with Swizz Beatz, Raekwon and singer Charlie Wilson. Mos' decision to join G.O.O.D. Music follows the release of his last album, The Ecstatic, on indie label Downtown Records in 2009. The rapper/actor and Kanye first collaborated on the Chicago MC's College Dropout, for "Two Words," and then again on "Drunk and Hot Girls." (MTV)

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