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Will Yasiin Bey always be Mos Def to Fans?

Posted by Billyjam, October 2, 2012 03:00pm | Post a Comment
Ticket sales for Mos Def's current tour shows might not be as they should since the legendary Brooklyn MC/actor is being billed under his new assumed name Yasiin Bey which a lot of fans have still not yet gotten used to and, apparently, refusing to  adapt to. To avoid some of this confusion for many of his upcoming shows, including his October 4th stop at San Diego's 4th and B and his October 20th San Francisco stop at the Regency Ballroom, in local print publication ads and via online pre-publicity promotion the concert by Yasiin Bey carries in a smaller font "formerly" or "A.K.A." Mos Def. And then one online outlet selling tickets for the current tour had both the names "Mos Def' and "Yasiin Bey" listed but omitted any "AKA" or "formerly" which, if you didn't know who the artist was, might make it look like there were two completely different artists sharing the same bill.

Born Dante Terrel Smith the rapper began using the name Mos Def (which I think is a truly inspired hip-hop name that lyrically works on many levels) early on in his rap career which began two long decades ago. The name Mos Def has stuck with Smith. In fact even when he began his successful second career in acting it was his rap handle, not his given birth name, that followed him. If you go back and look at the credits for both Be Kind Rewind and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy you will see him billed as "Mos Def." However the artist, who converted to Islam in his teens, has simultaneously since the late 90's been using the name Yasiin Bey but only among family and close friends. Then around this time last year he made the headline grabbing announcement of his decision to drop "Mos Def" altogether and replace it with Yasiin Bey (Yasiin is a name in the Qur'an's 36th surah) telling several interviewers at the time, including MTV and the Guardian UK, that the reason was simple: that he didn't want to have to deal any more with having any moniker or separation between the "self that I see and know myself as."
So what is the overall take on this name change by longtime Mos Def fans? Most don't care for it but they accept it or don't care so long as his music doesn't change too  but to the average fan, it appears, that the artist will always be "Mos Def". On an IGN message board started earlier this month under the topic heading What's your opinion of Mos Def's name change? responses included many of acceptance but overall people were not embracing of change. Comments ranged from "he's Mos Def whether he likes it or not" to "Yasin who?" to "I'm not going to judge his personal decision to change his alias. I'll just always call him Mos Def" and "I HATE it. **** that, he's always gonna be Mos Def. It's not even an logical change like Puff Daddy to P Diddy. Like if he wanted to go by Mos or something, it's like OK." These fans aren't alone in still thinking of & referring to the artist as Mos Def. Even his rap pal / musical collaborator Fat Joe listed him on the recently released guest-heavy single "Pride N Joy" as "featuring Kanye West, Miguel, Roscoe Dash, DJ Khaled, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss and Mos Def.

As referenced above Puffy/Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy is another artist who changed his name - one of numerous  who have undergone name changes in their careers. Others include Prince who became that love symbol, Cat Stevens who became Yusuf Islam, 2Pac aka Tupac [Shakur] who went by the name Makaveli, and most recently Calvin Broadus who switched from Snoop Dogg (having long dropped the Doggy part) to Snoop Lion. But how does an artist's name changing affect those responsible for filing their music? Do they get two different sections in libraries or at the record store? Of course Mos Def has not released a full-length album since his name change (his last solo outing was 2009's The Ecstatic) but where will his next album recorded under the name Yasiin Bey be filed at Amoeba? To answer this question today I talked with Ray Montano at Amoeba Hollywood who said that, while Cat Stevens is an exception to the rule whereby his music is filed under both Stevens and Yusef Islam, that "The general rule is to pretty much try and make it as easy as possible for customers to find the music. So we would file under the first name an artist went by," noted Ray adding that, "even if we have a well known band like say Depeche Mode and a member does a side project, then we will still file that release under Depeche Mode because it is easier to locate."


Mos Def's What's In My Bag @ Amoeba picks 2008

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