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Essential Yasiin Bey tracks

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Quit calling him Mos Def. In 2012, the producer, rapper and actor announced to a crowd in Anchorage, Alaska, that he would henceforth prefer to be called by his legal and chosen name, Yasiin Bey. Born Dante Smith, Bey was raised in Brooklyn; his father was a member of the Nation of Islam, which he discovered for himself at age 13. Over 15 years, Bey's songs with De La Soul, Black Star and a number of performances in film established him as one of hip hop's most revered voices, in concert with his strong political and religious sympathies. But like many African-American converts to Islam before him, and in a marked turn away from the name and product that was Mos Def, Bey claims the title he's been using privately since 1999 more truly represents his spiritual and social identity. So please use it.


TRACK: “Mathematics”
ALBUM: Black on Both Sides (1999)
One of the most conscious tracks from his debut album, “Mathematics” Bey takes a line from Erykah Badu’s “On and On” to polarize the experiences of black and white Americans right down to the digits.

TRACK: “History (feat. Talib Kweli)”
ALBUM: The Ecstatic (2009)
Over beats by J Dilla, Black Star duo Bey and Kweli hook the chorus “again and again, brand new/again and again, so fresh,” a http://admin.thecoast.ca/accessories/images/toolbar-bold.gifconsideration of historical circumstances in relation to one’s sense of self.

TRACK: “Brooklyn”
ALBUM: Black on Both Sides (1999)
Starting with a sample of “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers over mystical keys, Bey raps through the streets of his home neighbourhood until he turns two corners in three distinct parts.

TRACK: “Quiet Dog Bite Hard”
ALBUM: The Ecstatic (2009)
The words of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti open this example of Bey’s wordplay and feeling: “There it go like simple, the plainness, it’s primal and basic/Zulu arrangement, rockin’ amazement.”

TRACK: “The Panties”
ALBUM: The New Danger (2004)
A subtle but super-sexy slow-down with reggae drawl and enunciation that shows Bey’s turn toward more sensual jams, using a sample from soul singer Tom Brock’s 1974 song “I Love You More and More.”

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