- 11 Dec 1973
Regarded as one of hip-hop's most introspective and insightful artists, Mos Def has shaped a career that transcends music genres and artistic medium. A child of hip-hop's Golden Era, the native Brooklynite spent his childhood imbedded in the culture surrounding him as well as absorbing knowledge from across the artistic spectrum. With the release of "Universal Magnetic" (1996), Mos became an underground favorite in the hip hop world, leading to his legendary collaboration with Talib Kweli. The two formed Black Star whose debut album, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, would become one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums. Mos followed with his 1999 solo debut, Black On Both Sides, which was certified gold and credited by critics as bringing hip-hop back to its soapbox roots. As with his music, Mos has demonstrated insight and passion with his acting career, appearing in Spike Lee's Bamboozled, MTV's Carmen: A Hip Hopera, 2002's critically acclaimed Monster's Ball, Showtime, and the 2002 romantic comedy Brown Sugar, for which he received an NAACP Image Award nomination. In addition Mos has served as the host, music supervisor and co-executive producer for the HBO series Def Poetry and served as a writer, producer and actor on the MTV sketch comedy series Lyricist Lounge. Mos completed his Broadway debut in 2002 in the Tony nominated, Pulitzer Prize winning, Topdog/Underdog. Mos re-teamed with Topdog playwright, Suzan Lori Parks and director George Wolfe for the off-Broadway play, Fucking A, for which he was awarded an Obie Award. In 2003, Mos Def starred in Paramount Pictures' The Italian Job, alongside Ed Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. Then in 2004, Mos Def starred opposite Alan Rickman in the critically acclaimed HBO movie Something the Lord Made, for which he has received a 2004 Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie. Def was also nominated for both a Golden Globe Award (Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture) and Golden Satellite Award (Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television) for the same role. Also in 2004, he starred on the big screen in the feature film The Woodsman, with Kevin Bacon, Benjamin Bratt, Eve and Kyra Sedgwick. Mos Def continued his music career by releasing his highly-anticipated and critically acclaimed sophomore solo release, The New Danger (2004). The album was met with praise from both critics and fans alike. The first single, "Sex, Love and Money' earned Def a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative/Urban Performance and the album has been certified gold by the RIAA. He then went on to appear in Spyglass Entertainment's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in May 2005 as hero "Ford Prefect." The film received favorable reviews and earned over $104 million worldwide. The following year he appeared alongside Bruce Willis in the crime thriller 16 Blocks (2006), in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and had a cameo appearance in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Also in 2006 he released his next album, True Magic. The following year he appeared in the 2007 PBS historical documentary, Prince Among Slaves, and in 2008 he played the role of Chuck Berry in Cadillac Records. Def then released his latest album, The Ecstatic in 2009 which proved to be his second highest charting album to date. He also appeared in the urban comedy, Next Day Air and guest starred in an episode of the FOX TV series, House. Most recently, Mos Def appeared (as himself) in the 2010 mockumentary film, I’m Still Here, staring Joaquin Phoenix. As of 2011, Def is currently working on the films, Mama Black Widow and Keep Coming Back. He is also set to reprise his role in the sequel to Italian Job.