Dante Terrell Smith (born December 11, 1973 in Brooklyn, New York, United States), now known by the stage name Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), is a Grammy Award-nominated rapper and actor. He now works under the nom de plum Yasiin Bey, and has performed under the aliases Mighty Mos Def, The Freaky Night Watchman, Boogie Man, Black Dante and Pretty Flaco. He began rapping in a group called Urban Thermo Dynamics in 1994, and then formed the duo Black Star with Talib Kweli in 1998. As a solo artist he has released the albums Black on Both Sides in 1999, The New Danger in 2004, True Magic in 2006 and The Ecstatic in 2009. Initially recognized for his musical output, Mos Def’s screen work since the early 2000s has established him as one of only a handful of rappers who have garnered critical approval for their acting work.
Mos Def began his performing career on the television show The Cosby Mysteries in 1994. In 1994, Mos also began his music career, forming the short-lived group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD) with his younger brother DCQ and his younger sister Ces. Despite being signed to Payday Records, the group only released two singles and the group’s debut album, Manifest Destiny, did not see the light of day until 2004 when released through Illson Media. In 1996 he emerged as a solo artist, working with De La Soul and Da Bush Babees before releasing his own first single, “Universal Magnetic” which was a huge underground hit. After signing with Rawkus Records, he and Talib Kweli released a full length album under the band name Black Star, entitled Black Star. It was released in 1998, with Hi-Tek producing most of the tracks.