With four solo albums in 17 years, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) won’t be remembered for his prolific output. But having announced that 2016 will be his last year in music, the Brooklyn emcee is looking to go out with a bang.
Bey is set to drop a new album called December 99th this Friday (December 9). The project, which includes the previously released “N.A.W.,” “Local Time” and “Seaside Panic Room,” is a collaboration with producer Ferrari Sheppard and was recorded over the last year in South Africa, where Bey was being detained until recently. But that isn’t all he’s got in store for us.
During an appearance on WNL Radio at Art Basel Miami over the weekend, Yasiin announced he’s recorded an additional two albums, which he’ll premiere during the first of his four final U.S. performances later this month. “I will be premiering my new album, Negus In Natural Person, and me and Mannie Fresh’s project, which is called As Promised, at The Apollo on December 21st,” he said.
It’s unclear what Bey means by “premiering,” but we hope he’s referring to an actual release and not just a one-time live performance.
We’ve already heard a number of potential tracks from Mos and Mannie’s collaborative project, which has been in the works for over four years. The pair were filmed in the studio together working on numerous songs in 2012 before officially releasing “Black Jesus” the following year. Then, in 2014, Mannie debuted a self-proclaimed “classic” (he wasn’t exaggerating) called “Let’s Go.” I’ve been waiting for the CDQ ever since.
Negus In Natural Person, on the other hand, came as a complete surprise, and not just because of Yasiin Bey’s famously limited output. The title alone sounds like the mos def album (pun intended) since Black on Both Sides, and from what Bey previewed down at Art Basel, there’s good reason to be excited. The veteran rapper popped up at Boiler Room and Saul Williams’ In Appreciation of Lyricism event this past weekend, where he debuted three new songs that he’s got in the stash.
The first, for which the title remains a mystery, is darker and louder than anything you’d expect from a Mos Def album in 2016. The production sounds like if Metro Boomin started making beats on Mars, but Yasiin Bey’s skepticism keep us grounded on Planet Earth: “What do you mean by the term the ‘modern world’? What do you mean by the term ‘civilization’? What do you mean by the term ‘technology’? What do you mean by ‘scientific advancement’?”
Shortly after, Bey performed a second new song called “Gray Gardens.” This one’s a smooth slow jam featuring a sample of Diana Ross’ “It’s Your Move,” which brings its cosmic production down to a dreamy pace while borrowing lines like, “Do you understand it’s all in your head?” Mos gets his Elton John on and pleads with a girl to not break his heart (because the world doesn’t need another lost love song).
(Jump to the 5:20:45 to mark hear “Gray Gardens”)
Saving the best ’til last, Bey treated the crowd to a third and final song called “No Time to Pretend.” He began by performing it a cappella, which only gave more weight to his politically-charged rhymes: “Save the date, forever is a current event / We will not pass this way again, no time to pretend.” Bey later dove into a full performance of the song and the production doesn’t disappoint—it’s rich, it’s retro, and it features an instantly recognizable sample of Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” (or, more accurately, The Charmels’ “As Long As I’ve Got You”). If I had to guess, I’d say Adrian Younge was behind this one.
So, there you have it: cold, hard evidence that Yasiin Bey does, in fact, have more music in store, just in case you didn’t believe him before (no one would blame you). I’ll definitely be giving December 99th a few listens this Friday, but I’m nowhere near as excited for it as I am Negus In Natural Person or As Promised, especially if songs like “No Time to Pretend” are on there.
Here’s to hoping Yasiin Bey releases (as in, properly releases) all three of his albums within the next few months—not just for our listening pleasure, but to give his decorated career the send-off it deserves.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram