City Arts Fest 2012: Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) at the Showbox Sodo

Suzi Pratt / October 22, 2012
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It’s been almost a year since Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) played live in Seattle, but on Saturday night he returned playing at the Showbox SoDo as part of night two of the City Arts Festival. Despite being 40 minutes late to take the stage, with an anxious all-ages crowd screaming his name as they waited, he proved to be one of the greatest visionary and legendary emcees in hip-hop history. The stage was simply styled with two DJ booths in the back, and a row of potted flowers lining the risers. Mos Def took the stage with a grin on his face, as a rapper with nothing to prove, dressed in all-white attire. But for an emcee with legendary status, Mos Def’s stage presence definitely echoed that of an accomplished performer who was truly letting loose and getting comfortable on stage.

Multiple times throughout his performance, he leaned down into the crowd and grabbed the hands of his fans who were eagerly reaching out for acknowledgment.  Occasionally, fans would yell out songs they wanted to hear, to which Mos Def eventually said, “People come to shows and say ‘do Ms. Fat Booty or do Black Star songs,’ but I’m gonna do songs that I want to do.” As he’d have it, Mos Def took the audience through a catalogue of hits off his 2009 album The Ecstatic, and even previewed a few tracks from his upcoming release Yasiin Bey Presents.

Unlike most hip-hop shows that are full of bravado and swag, Mos Def’s Showbox showcase was one of simplicity and charisma. “I don’t care what people think of me,” Mos Def said at one point, “I’m me.” This notion of humbleness and realness instead of extravagance was perfectly summed up by the artists’ performance of “N****s in Poorest,” his fierce parody of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s smash hit “N****s in Paris.”

Don’t get caught up in no throne
Towers of Babylon rise up and so they shall fall
As it was written before, amen, so it goes on
Don’t get caught up in no throne
– Mos Def, “N****s in Poorest”

The show spanned over an hour and concluded with Mos Def saying a quick prayer and sincerely thanking the audience for their support, saying, “we’re not gonna take up much more of your time.” Quite the ironic ending to a fearless performance.

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