Rapper Mos Def Announces He’s Retiring His Name

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What’s in a name? Well, for Mos Def, not much of anything after this year.

The rapper has announced that he’ll no longer be going by the stage name he’s been using since 1994 when he launched his music career (his given name is Dante Smith). Instead, moving forward, he’ll be going by the name Yasiin.

(MORE: The Inevitability of Def)

Mos Def has had a solidly respectable music career, both as part of Black Star with Talib Kweli and as a solo artist, though since 2000 he’s been increasingly appearing in film and television projects. He’s most notably starred in 16 Block and Cadillac Records, and will be appearing on the drama series Dexter.

While it’s not clear whether his name change has anything to do with his burgeoning film career — he’s always been credited as Mos Def — he does seem ready to reinvent himself. Here’s the explanation he gave MTV for the change:

“Mos Def is a name that I built and cultivated over the years, it’s a name that the streets taught me, a figure of speech that was given to me by the culture and by my environment, and I feel I’ve done quite a bit with that name and it’s time to expand and move on. Also, I didn’t want to have to deal with having any moniker or separation between the self that I see and know myself as.”

It seems we were wrong; for the artist-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as Mos Def, there’s actually quite a lot in a name.

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