President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": Consumers who bought "True Magic" were completely confused to see the CD arrive in stores in a plastic case with no artwork. I called Best Buy's Web site to complain about somebody sending me a bootleg CD until I realized they all looked like this. All I could do was laugh. Mos Def consistently goes against the grain. Geffen Records got its album. He shook Geffen Records. I believe he loves music, but his priorities have always been a step higher. When other rappers were bragging about the streets and talking about how hard they were, he was more pissed off with popular names not showing up for the Jena 6 rally. He also took a stand against the government's treatment of Hurricane Katrina by creating "Dollar Day (Katrina Clap)" and getting arrested outside of the Video Music Awards for performing on a flatbed truck without a license.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: I heard a few songs from "Black Star," the collabo CD with rapper Talib Kweli, and used to blast "Definition," but I wouldn't have called myself a fan. However, while I was in college at NMU, I had a buddy who was so deeply into conscious hip-hop and would vent all day long about how garbage rap music was. I've always leaned towards positive female emcees but would let male rappers slide on some of their more mainstream and sometimes chauvinistic rhymes. The longer I was around her, the more I started really listening to the words of some of the songs I'd blast. And the more I listened, the more I didn't like what I was hearing. I quickly started changing my musical selections.
I thought "Ms. Fat Booty" was an entertaining song, but when I heard "Got," all I could do was scream, "Exactly! Mos Def is saying exactly how I feel about fake gangstas I see at this university and even around my own hometown." After "Got," I was blasting "The Rape Over" nonstop.
Now as much as I loved his intelligent, political music, it was Mos Def's ties to blues and R&B that made me a never-ending supporter. "The Panties" was one of the sexiest, jazziest, hottest songs I'd ever heard. As vulgar as the title sounds, it's really a laid-back jam. Unfortunately for me, "U R the One" hit way too close to home for me in 2006 during some serious "man blues" and I listened to that song over and over again. I loved the song, but I wish I did not relate to it at the time. "Sun, Moon, Stars" and "There Is a Way" are great songs to turn to in order to boost my drive and relax when I'm feeling stressed out.
I never thought there'd be a rapper I liked more than Rakim, but if I had to put rappers in order by talent level, Mos Def would be an easy number two. There are very few artists I'd go ecstatic to interview, but someday I'd love to sit down and have a chat with him. That's my ultimate goal as an entertainment journalist—to interview Mos Def.
Accomplishments from the Artist: Mos Def, who started off pursuing an acting career, has done a great job of showcasing his musical talent. "Black on Both Sides" spent 16 weeks on the Billboard charts. "The Ecstatic" spent 11 weeks on the Billboard charts with the album peaking at number 9. "The New Danger" spent 15 weeks on the Billboard charts with the album peaking at number 5. His work with rapper Talib Kweli on "Black Star" was classic in the hip-hop, underground market. In addition to rhyming, Mos Def proved himself to be a stellar actor in movies like "Something the Lord Made," "Cadillac Records," "Monster's Ball" and "Brown Sugar." Mos Def also did animation work as the voice of Gangstalicious from the comic strip turned anime "The Boondocks."
Recommended Reading & Videos:
Mos Def headline at Chicago's Juneteenth concert in 2010 (read the article about the event below)
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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