Sunday night in the nation’s capital. The Kennedy Center is buzzing with beautiful people. Drinks are flowing. A painter creates a work of art. Is tonight’s performance an opera? Play?
yasiin bey, the artist formerly known as Mos Def, performs his final U.S. concert. For two decades, this Renaissance Man has been opening minds with his brand of socially conscious hip-hop. He announced his retirement in 2016. The farewell tour includes six shows at New York City’s Apollo Theater and in Washington, DC.
With no intro and sprinkling rose petals, yasiin enters stage left and performs a half dozen songs. Priority. More music. The Boogie Man Song. He then philosophizes about life, revealing he’s in a “room full of strangers and you feel indebted.” He is reflective with a hint of tentativeness.
yasiin gives a brief synopsis of hip-hop’s regional New York roots. He likens the music to the brass band sound of New Orleans and the go-go beats of D.C. On cue, one of rap’s “pantheon of heroes,” the legendary Slick Rick appears and the crowd is on its feet.
More hits. Mathematics. More classics. Astronomy. Partner in rhyme, Talib Kweli blesses the mic. Black Star powers activate! Bars are dropped. Concertgoers lose their minds. The chemistry and love between the two is on full display as we’re transported with Re:DEFinition and Get By.
yasiin bey’s final U.S. concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on January 2, 2017. Performance with Talib Kweli.
The smoothed out portion of the musical bon voyage commences with collabo extraordinaire, Robert Glasper. Glasper has worked with everyone from MF Doom to Meshell Ndegeocello to Norah Jones. With yasiin on the drums, singing, and Glasper playing piano and keyboard SIMULTANEOUSLY, the pair sneakily manipulates the audience. Before we know it, we’re singing a jazzy version of BBD’s Poison.
yasiin bey’s final U.S. concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on January 2, 2017. Performance with Robert Glasper.
yasiin gets emotional as he takes a victory lap around the auditorium to a standing ovation. You feel like you’re reluctantly saying goodbye to your brother, but respect his decision to move to the next phase of his life.
yasiin bey’s final U.S. concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on January 2, 2017.
Artist. Activist. Emcee. I’m glad I was part of yasiin’s last/first step of his journey.
Artwork by Sean Carter. lyricfancy uses music as a conduit to humorously discuss human nature.