Dante Terrell Smith aka Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) started his career in hiphop group Urban Thermo Dynamics. He later formed a duo with Talib Kweli to create the eminent partnership Black Star. He has flied as a solo artist producing intelligent, innovative sounds, he is well known for being a major force in the 90s underground hiphop movement. The man himself had a change of scene from New York’s small underground clubs to come and give Leeds University Union’s Stylus a pristine performance.
Leeds based MC Tbreak and DJ 10 tonn opened the show with energy and authority, banging out some oldskool tracks to get the crowd going. They successfully captured the audience’s attention, getting some heads bopping however the atmosphere was slightly impatient as people were, as usual, so eager to see the headliner. Unfortunately to make matters worse, Yasiin Bey was rather late on stage, so Tbreak brought on youthful rapper Weezy Jefferson who made quite an impression, especially on his Acapella tracks and 3 accomplished b-boys/girls, who were really refreshing to watch. Although, these acts did distract the crowd for a while, people began to get frustrated, desperate to see the hiphop legend himself.
Eventually, he arrived in the building! There was a rapid changeover and finally Yassin Bey appeared on a red-lighted, rose-petal covered stage. He was exceptionally charismatic, natural and energetic from the moment he stepped onstage, playing a range of songs including Leaving on a Jet Plan and There is a Way. He also dabbled in doing some ska and blues tracks, appreciating and playing for the diverse, excitable crowd – as well as covering a Biggy track, which sent the crowd ecstatic.
Throughout the performance there was a great projection running on the backdrop, which worked flawlessly in conjunction with the music (without distracting from it) to bring about an uplifting mood. In addition, it was impossible to ignore Yasiin Bey’s amazing dancing ability, as well as his intelligent rhymes and dynamic instrumental beats. His set was really fast pace - he never completely finished a song, however this was really revitalizing as it kept the energy levels to the max. To close the set he played Umi Says, which brought the night to a relaxing end, leaving the crowd devoted to him.
With the zest of a 20 year old, 40 year old, Yasiin Bey knows how to perform on stage, accomplished in his talents and professional in his attitude – this guy has got it all. Stylus was perhaps slightly too preppy for a night of this kind, however, Yasiin Bey overcame this with his performance – in the end it was a positive night entrenched with good music.
Review by Bonny Herrington
Images courtesy of Justin Gardner