Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, celebrated the 15 year anniversary of his first solo album, Black on Both Sides, last week and it was heavenly. For the full recap, hit the jump.
As I walked into the doors of the Yost Theater I immediately felt an overwhelming rush of the crowd’s positive vibes and high anticipation — the kind of soothe and soulfulness I haven’t experienced en masse in a minute. The venue wasn’t exactly overflowing but it was full enough with people you didn’t mind standing next to. This was the kind of crowd who knew what this album meant to hip-hop because they lived through it, who appreciated the artist’s message and legacy beyond no. 3 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, who simply connected to his realness as a rapper and zero fronts persona. But as we all waited patiently for the lyrical prophet to grace us with his words, you couldn’t help but feel as if you were in on something with everyone around you — a quiet understanding between you and the stranger next to you, as you give a nod and a grin in recognition of one another’s commonalities. This is the impact of the artist.
After having been posted up on a stool backstage for some time, I look up and finally see Mos Def in black garb from head to toe standing in the shadows of the Yost Theater’s velvet curtains with half a dozen roses in his hands. Calm, cool and collected. He walks out onto the stage smooth as silk, a smile on his face and scatters petals wherever his boots drop before grabbing his retro-style chrome microphone and taking us back to ’99.
For one, his stage presence feels au naturel with the occasional pause as he’d look out to the crowd reflecting the same gratitude on his face as theirs, or to just simply inform his fans with fun facts, like how he just bought a hairless cat and named it “Ebola”. (This happened, guys.) Overall, the 15 year anniversary show was beyond euphoric and filled to the brim with nostalgia.
Back when boom-bap beats were heavy in hip-hop, Mos Def came up from the underground and mastered the wide arena of lyricism. Naming his ground, his words weren’t infused with threatening snarls, peacocking lines, and salty vibes — but instead, his Brooklyn spirit and charisma shone through in every song on this classic and celebrated album, with that same passion proving to still live on stage with him today.
Photos by: Amanda Martinez