Yasiin Bey (born Dante Terrell Smith and known as Mos Def) is a hop-hop icon whose Black Star teamup with Talib Kweli set the standard for conscious rap. He was also the original Drake, starting as an actor before coming up in the rap game. As an adult, he excels in both film and music. Check out these highlights from the multi-talented filmography of Mos Def.
10. Cadillac Records (2008)
Character: Chuck Barry
Mos Def proves he has rock chops too, playing rock & roll pioneer Chuck Berry in this fictionilized (but necessary) retelling of Chess Records. When white America appropriated rock culture, it prompted the rise of hip-hop, which has been fighting against a similar cultural appropriation ever since it blew up into mainstream attention.
9. The Boondocks (2005-2008)
Riley’s (Regina King) favorite rapper, Gangstalicious, is ironically played by Mos Def. He does his best to be a good influence, but he’s also a fan of guns and drugs. What he’s not a fan of is the dude who shot him.
8. 16 Blocks (2006)
Character: Eddie Bunker
Eddie Bunker is a witness testifying on police corruption, and Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is the hungover cop who must get him to the courthouse. It won’t be an easy 16-block trip though – renegade cops are trying to kill them.
7. The Woodsman (2004)
Character: Sgt. Lucas
Mos Def plays Sgt. Lucas, the parole officer of convicted child molestor Walter (Kevin Bacon). He’s verbally abusive, but he does have a heart when another child molestor is mysteriously beaten.
6. Brown Sugar (2002)
Character: Christopher “Cav” Anton Vichon
There are a TON of rappers in this movie – Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Pete Rock, De La Soul, Common, Method Man, and Slick Rick are just a few. Mos Def’s Cavi is a cab driver and rapper.
5. Dexter (2011)
Character: Brother Sam
Brother Sam is a reformed death row inmate who now runs a body shop. He’s a man of the cloth, but he’s also not afraid to face criminals, death, and all manners of darkness.
4. Chappelle’s Show (2003-2006)
Mos Def made regular appearances on Dave Chappelle’s ground-breaking Comedy Central sketch show. He even performed a few songs.
3. The Italian Job (2003)
Character: Left Ear
Mos Def sports a Kangol beret as the explosives expert in a team of criminals avenging a double cross. He joins an all-star cast, including Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland, and Seth Green.
2. Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Mod Def teams with Jack Black as Mike and Jerry, two video store employees who come up with a plan to recreate all the VHS tapes they accidentally erased. The recreations of iconic movies alone are worth the price of admission.
1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Character: Ford Prefect
Mos Def plays the alien best friend of Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman), a human who’s about to lose his home planet. They end up on a trip around the galaxy to stop the Vogons from building an intergalactic highway.