As frustrating as it is to be a music fan, you may be correct to deduce the stress level for an artist to be magnified tenfold what we feel. In the past few years, we began to see remnants of the vexation manifest in actor/MC Mos Def and the actions he’s taken.
In September 2011, Mos Def announced that he legally changed his name to Yasiin Bey, and the said moniker will also serve as his stage name. Before a performance with the Brooklyn Philharmonic later that year, Bey in a Q&A session, explained the motive for the change. “At this point of my life and my career, I wanted to dispense with any type of artifice,” he said. “Mos Def is a nom de plume of source and a great name to have as an MC. But as time started to pass, it started to feel like that name could be boiled down into a persona, or a product or a brand. And I wanted to use my name to reassert my own humanness.”
No duality. Man and artist occupying the same space. I hear that. Things ramped up in 2013 when Bey decided to leave America for a spell and take up residence in South Africa. Per an article in Mail & Guardian, he revealed, “Last year May, I came [to Cape Town] and I said I’m not leaving. I’m staying. It’s a beautiful place. It has the ocean, mountain, botanical gardens and beautiful people.”
He continued, “For a guy like me, with five or six generations from the same town in America, to leave America, things gotta be not so good with America. There are some beautiful places in America. I love Brooklyn. New York City needs to thank Brooklyn every day just for existing. That’s how I feel about it. It was a hard thing to leave home. But I’m glad I did.”
In 2016, Bey may not have been as glad, because he was imprisoned in South Africa back in January for breaking immigration laws. Specifically, he was charged with using a false identity, using an unrecognized travel document and helping his family stay in the country illegally. Amid that dilemma, a fed-up Bey announced his future career plans. “I’m retiring from the music recording industry as it is currently assembled today, and Hollywood, effective immediately. I’m releasing my final album this year, and that’s that.”
The dust settled on the case, resulting in Bey being placed on South Africa’s “undesirable person” list, which bars him from re-entering the nation. With those issues resolved, Bey announced that he planned to get back to work and hit the stage, albeit with a catch. He’ll play a handful of shows in the United States and then gracefully bow out. The first of the shows took place Dec. 21 at the Apollo Theater. Through the eyes of an optimist, one thing was made crystal clear: Dude loves his art and he loves to share it. Especially the new stuff.
His next project, titled “Negus-Natural Persons,” he described onstage as “the best album I’ve ever done was given some light.” There was a chance that songs from his brand-new project, released on the day of the show, also got some shine. That album is a collaboration with Ferrari Sheppard. The duo is called Dec. 99 and the self-titled album is available for streaming exclusively on Tidal.
Because he didn’t have a set list to follow, we might have gotten a snippet of the planned project with Mannie Fresh, tentatively titled “As Promised.” That tallies up to three new albums! Are we sure he’s done? Again, to an optimist, it looks like he gonna be around for a spell. The trappings of the fame are an obvious nuisance. “I can appreciate entertainment, but I’m over it if it’s a place you can’t be earnest,” he said. “I don’t always want to be dazzling. I just want to be.”
It was also apparent that he’s not too fond of the social media videographers spawned by technological advances. “Put your machines down and be here!” he sternly stated. “The greatest machines are here [head] and here [heart].”
The reception to the melodic/soulful “The Panties,” and “The Boogie Man Song,” showed his crew will allow him to grow and experiment, and the acceptance of the lyrical MC Bey demonstrated on “Casa Bey,” “Mathematics,” and “Hip-Hop” demonstrated that his work through hip-hop solidified his cache with his fan base. The marquee read, “YASIIN BEY & FRIENDS,” so the appearances by Pharaoh Monche (“Oh No”) and Slick Rick the Ruler (“Auditorium”) were welcomed, but for Bey, it was apparent that all the “friends” he needed were that red microphone, his catalogue and his people.
Over and out. Holla next week. Enjoy and embrace 2017. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.
RIP George Michael.