Mos Def began his performing career on the television show The Cosby Mysteries in 1994. In 1994, Mos also began his music career, forming the short-lived group 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 group's 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 artist, 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 a a full length album under the band name Black Star, entitled Black Star. It was released 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. Mos Def is projected to release his last album on Geffen Records, The Undeniable Free Flaco in late 2005 or early 2006.
Impact on hip-hop
The artistic boundaries of hip-hop and 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, Dev Smith, The Roots and others. "Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are... Blackstar" Mos Def's collaboration with Talib Kweli was released during the aftermath of the deaths of 2pac and The Notorious B.I.G. sparking a rebirth of "aware" and "intelligent" hip-hop. 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.
On Mos Def's 2004 album "The New Danger," the rapper claims to own the receipe to the world's best-tasting chili-- a comment that has drawn the ire of companies such as ConAgra Foods, Inc.. and Wolf Brand Chili.
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. Having been nominated for several awards, Mos finally broke through, winning Best Actor, Independent Movie at the 2005 Black Reel Awards for his portrayal of Sgt. Lucas in The Woodsman. He also landed the role of Ford Prefect in the long-awaited 2005 movie adaption of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Notably, in 2002 he played the role of Booth in Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog, a Tony-nominated and Pulitzer-winning Broadway play. He has also been a musical guest and participated in many skits on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show.
- 1998 Black Star Priority Records
- 1999 Black on Both Sides Rawkus Records
- 2004 The New Danger Geffen
- nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance, 47th Annual Grammy Awards
- The Brazilian Job 2006 (announced)
- 16 Blocks 2006 (filming)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 2005
- nominated for Choice Rap Artist in a Movie, 2005 Teen Choice Awards.
- Lackawanna Blues - 2005
- Something the Lord Made - 2004
- nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, 56th Annual Emmy Awards
- nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television, 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards
- nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special, 36th NAACP Image Awards
- The Woodsman - 2004
- Won Best Actor in an Independent Film, 2005 BlackReel Awards.
- nominated for Breakthrough Performance Award in a Motion Picture, 2004 Gotham Awards.
- The Italian Job - 2003
- Brown Sugar - 2002
- nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, 34th NAACP Image Awards
- Civil Brand - 2002
- Showtime - 2002
- Monster's Ball - 2001
- Carmen: A Hip Hopera - 2001
- Bamboozled - 2000
- Island of the Dead - 2000
- Where's Marlowe? - 1998
- Ghosts - 1997
- Official Mos Def site
- Template:Imdb name
- Mos Def News site
- Mos Def Fan Forum
- The Woodsman site
- Official site for Something The Lord Made
- Official site for Def Poetry