Mos Def still shining that light

<iframe width="420" height="315" src=""frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

When I first started listening to Mos Def I was a very young man. More of a boy, really. I think I picked up the record he put out with Talib Kweli – as the hugely influential duo Black Star – when I was in sixth grade. It became one of the first pieces of music that really moved me, though listening to it in the intervening decade plus has made me question how much of it I really understood – and could therefore connect with – in the beginning. (But: do we have to completely understand something from the outset in order to enjoy or find value in it?)

Last night, I saw Mos Def (who now goes by Yasiim Bey) perform with the Robert Glasper Experiment at a music festival on the side of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China. It was a very surreal experience, and a long way from listening to Black Star on CD out of my massive three-piece 90s-era boombox in the midwestern bedroom of my youth. It was all the more strange, too, because I watched from the best seat in the house: the scaffolding above the main stage. Having been hired last minute to rig the lighting and sound with a crew of workers from Anhui after a local contractor fell off the scene, I decided that there was no reason not to stay up top and watch from above. And watch I did.used water slides for sale

The show wasn’t without hiccups. The band came on first and faceplanted for about ten minutes. It started to come together after a slower, spaced-out version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky came from left field, and by the time Mos joined them onstage a song or three later the band had settled in, seemed to be hearing one another for the first time since the set started, and it was then that I thought maybe those cats were for real.

Mos Def has got it. Nothing quantifiable, but dude has an aura. These days, he seems to spend a lot of time singing those reggae-style meandering hooks – something I’ve always liked – and he did plenty of that last night. (Related: listen to his chorus on a tribute for Amadou Diallo, he of the Brooklyn PD 41 shots. It’s great.) He also leaned heavy on the mollasses-slow verses that are characteristic of the new-Mos style last night. But at one moment, maybe a third of the way through the program, he stepped forward holding that red throwback Elvis-era microphone he’s so fond of, wrapped the cord around his hand and dug the fuck in for a three minute rapid-fire verse. Standing in front of the stage monitors, he was unbelievably quick, rhythmic and completely engrossing as a performer. It was an impressive display of the command that one can hold over themselves and whatever it is they’re doing. It was dope.

The song embedded above, Travellin’ Man, was the only throwback I caught in last night’s performance. I didn’t think he would play any classics – and he didn’t – but at one point he weaved this hook into one of his extended melodic improvisations: Memories don’t live like people do.

On the track, he continues: they always remember you, whether things are good or bad. It’s just the memories. Memories don’t live like people do, baby don’t forget me. I’m a travellin’ man, moving through places, space and time. Got a lot of things I got to do, but God willing I’m coming back to you?????.

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to Mos Def still shining that light

  1. Charlie
    September 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Damn, I really wanted to see this show! I was actually in Shanghai at the time, too. I heard it was good! Glad to hear your account of it, also.

    • Roger
      September 26, 2013 at 12:14 am #

      All in all, it was pretty dope – like I said, I’m a huge mos fan and it was great to see him. But it was pretty sloppy all around, and on the whole wasn’t an amazing show. Not to mention that the expo site there is in an embarrassing state of disrepair. There wer holes and shit in the actual promenade/walkway on the riverfront…. mad dangerous, frankly I’m surprised no one fell into the Huangpu.

      • Charlie
        September 26, 2013 at 1:50 am #

        This comment makes me feel better about missing this show!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *