Name at birth: Dante Terrell Smith
Mos Def is a critically-acclaimed hip-hop star who is also known to movie audiences for his roles in The Italian Job (2003, with Mark Wahlberg) and The Hitchhiker"s Guide to the Galaxy (2005, starring Zooey Deschanel). Def hit the music scene in the late 1990s, first gaining attention for the underground hit "Universal Magnetic." With Talib Kweli he formed the group Black Star and made a name for himself as a non-gangsta, socially conscious rapper who earned critical praise, if not multi-platinum record sales. After his first solo album, 1999"s Black on Both Sides, Mos Def the actor began to get as much attention as Mos Def the hip-hop artist, in films such as Spike Lee"s Bamboozled (2000) and in Monster"s Ball (2001, with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton). By 2004 he"d had a second successful album, The New Danger, appeared in the thriller The Italian Job and earned an Emmy nomination for a lead role in the HBO movie Something The Lord Made. Since then he"s appeared in movies like 16 Blocks (2006) and Cadillac Records (2008, playing Chuck Berry), and in TV shows like The Boondocks (2005-08, the animated series created by Aaron McGruder), and Dexter (2011). Mos Def"s other albums include True Magic (2006) and The Ecstatic (2009). He announced in September of 2011 that he would be going under a new name, Yasiin Bey, and by the end of that year he and Talib Kweli reunited for another Black Star record.