A major rapper, Mos Def is also a respected actor. He was born Dante Terrell Smith in late 1973. He took on the name Mos Def because it is an abbreviation of “most definitely,” a phrase that he uses often. Growing up in Brooklyn, he began rapping when he was 9. Def began his career in 1994 with the group Urban Thermo Dynamics that also featured his younger brother and sister, but only two singles were released at the time. In 1996 he started his solo career, working with De La Soul and da Bus Babees before releasing his single “Universal Magnetic,” which became a major underground hit. He teamed up with Talib Kweli to release the CD Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star in 1998. Mos Def released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, in 1999, and in 2004 came out with The New Danger which, in addition to rap, also includes some rock, soul and blues played by Mos Def’s rock band Black Jack Johnson.
More recently he recorded True Magic and Mos Definite during 2006-07. In the meantime, Mos Def has been gaining recognition for his acting. A professional actor since he was 14, appearing on television shows and films, he made strong impressions in the films Brown Sugar, The Italian Job, The Woodsman, 16 Blocks and the HBO film Something The Lord Made, in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Broadway play Topdog/Underdog and as the long-time host of Def Poetry on HBO.