Friday, February 18, 2005

FEB. 18/19/20


Mos Def

From film to fashion to music,
he’s a tough act to follow

He didn't win a Grammy last weekend, but rapper Mos Def is probably too busy with his acting career to notice.

In Concert

Mos Def with guest Jennifer Johns and local opener Microscopic Syllables:

Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

When: 9 p.m. Saturday (Mos Def will host a 21-and-over after-party starting at 11:30 p.m.)

Tickets: $33 and $45. Call (877) 750-4400 or go online at www.ticketmaster. com

Info: www.mosdefmusic.com

While the Brooklyn, N.Y., native jammed Saturday night in Los Angeles with fellow Best Alternative/Urban Performance nominees Musiq and the Roots at a Grammy pre-party, HBO premiered "Lackawanna Blues," in which he plays the part of a bandleader.

The role is the latest in a string of film and stage projects Mos Def has worked on in the past few years. After appearing on the television shows "Spin City" and "NYPD Blue," the 31-year-old set his sights on feature films, appearing in "Bamboozled," "Monster's Ball," "Brown Sugar" and "The Italian Job."

More recently, he's established himself as a rising star with performances in 2004's "The Woodsman," a successful Broadway run with "Topdog/Underdog" and both an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for his part in HBO's "Something the Lord Made."

And in trademark Mos Def fashion, he's just sitting back and wondering what took everyone so long to notice.

"I've been acting since I was a teenager," the rapper said in an interview with Esquire last year. "But no one finds out about you until you've been working for 15 or 20 years."

"I've been acting since I was a teenager. But no one finds out about you until you've been working for 15 or 20 years."

MOST FANS still connect Mos Def with the socially conscious, underground flow that he capitalized upon with buddy Talib Kweli in the late '90s.

After establishing himself in 1996 with "Universal Magnetic," he collaborated with Kweli for 1998's "Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star" before following up the next year with his solo debut, "Black on Both Sides."

But October's release of "The New Danger" revealed another side to Mos Def as a musician. A number of tracks on the album are products of his involvement with Black Jack Johnson, a rock/funk/jazz experiment with former Parliament Funkadelic keyboard player Bernie Worrell and Living Colour's Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun.

"I'm just an artist and I'm doin' what I like to do," said Mos Def in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last year. "All I know is I wanted to feel a certain way when I heard music.

"You can listen to all these Jimi records and Miles records and Curtis Mayfield records; I wanted to be able to add something to that conversation."


ALTHOUGH THE album was hailed by critics as one of the more progressive hip-hop albums of 2004, it's also been described as a little too eclectic for his longtime fans' tastes.

Tracks like "Ghetto Rock," "Close Edge" and the Kanye West-produced "Sunshine" are what fans expect -- dope beats with Mos Def's syrupy lyrics drizzled on top. Others, like "The Boogie Man Song," "Blue Black Jack" and "Modern Marvel" all feature him actually singing each verse while the band rocks out.

Is he worried about losing fans by stretching his musical wings? Not really.

"I got more than one way that I like to use my voice," he explained to Flaunt magazine. "I wanted to show that there's a continuum. You don't always have to do beats and rhymes. There's textures, principles that are a force in hip-hop that can be applied to other types of music."

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