"Since last August, explaining the retirement of 'the mighty Mos Def' has been part of both his solo performances and the tour with Kweli. It's Kweli, along with Kanye West, who is a friend, whom Bey credits with helping him make the decision to proceed in his career without what now strikes him as the 'artifice' of a 'nom de plume.' (It’s worth pointing out that Kweli, which in Swahili means 'true,' is actually the middle name of Talib Greene—so while Talib Kweli isn’t a nom de plume, exactly, he does consider it a stage name.) It hasn’t always been easy. Responding to the Alaskan crowd’s disappointment, Bey reacted like [...]
Philip Glass “may well be the Rossini of his century,” the critic, composer and scholar Kyle Gann wrote—back in a previous century. That analogy, he went on, was a useful way of thinking about the prolific minimalist, who “had an electric impact on the masses but only a portion of whose music seemed worthy of study by intellectuals.” This was the case, Gann added, despite the fact that “much of Glass’s best music has been underrated by disappointed former fans who have ceased to listen closely.”
Intellectuals that can’t bother to listen closely: so problematic! If any among their number wandered into the Park Avenue Armory last Saturday to [...]
At a performance last August, the deliberate and sharply dressed emcee, who is also well known as an actor, announced his “official transition” to a huge audience gathered in the parking lot of a popular pub and pizzeria in Anchorage, Alaska: “My professional name will be my chosen and my legal name, which is Yasiin Bey. … And I don’t want to have to wait for it to be in Source or Vibe or someplace. I figure, we’re all here. We can see each other.” And then he spelled it out for them: “Y-A-S-I-I-N, first name. Last name: B-E-Y.”
When a few Alaskans made some disapproving noises, Bey responded, [...]
As is often the case with a hit rap song, lots of people have been putting remix verses over the beat Chauncey "Hit-Boy" Hollis made for Jay-Z and Kanye West's smash "Ni**as In Paris." Everyone from T.I. to Chris Brown to Young Jeezy to Busta Rhymes to Aziz Ansari to a now-famous guy on the subway have taken the tune and making something new. This, though, is the best by far. Yasiin Bey, the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, flips the original's flaunting of wealth into a trenchant commentary on poverty.
Watching the ridiculous Maybach Music Group press conference last week, I had the rare and disconcerting experience of agreeing with something that Sean "Puffy" Combs said. He said that MMG founder Rick Ross has "the best ears in the game." I think that's right, as exemplified by the huge, wonderful beats he chooses for his records, and by the fact that he discovered Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill a couple years ago. Meek, I think, is the most talented rapper on the label's roster—his "Tupac Back" and "I'm a Boss" were highlights on last year's showcase album, MMG Presents, Self-Made Vol. 1. And judging from his recent single, "[...]