Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) on Artistic Creativity & Leaving America
May 06, 2015 at 6:28 am
The Black artist has often found America to be a troubling space to work and create in. During the Harlem Renaissance, writers, poets, dancers and other creators found solace in the upper Manhattan neighbor. It was a safe place for creativity and expression, which birthed some of our most revered artists and creative works. Due to gentrification and the socio-economic state of the country, these spaces are no longer insulated. The bubble has effectively been burst. In a recent interview with Beats By Dre, hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def, sat down to chat about leaving the United States, his music and his artistic process.
My thoughts on the interview
In the short interview Bey addresses his progression as an artist. He says, “I’m different, the time is different and my skill level is different.” Undoubtedly, musical audiences need to allow artists the opportunity to grow and expand even if that means regrouping in a new place. However, I think what was most troubling about the interview was when Bey justified his reason for leaving America. While he is certainly not the first artist to immigrate elsewhere (James Baldwin, Josephine Baker and many others did during the 20th century), his absence seems a bit more like abandonment.
Bey was correct in suggesting that the earth is our country; I am the biggest advocate for travel and exploration. However, during these tumultuous times as Black Americans continue to grapple with issues of police brutality, disenfranchisement, poverty and so forth; we could really use all of our allies. Bey and many other socially conscious artists have platforms that they currently aren’t using to reach huge audiences. While he asks us to take the time to really “listen” to his music, we hope that in return he “listens” to our cries for help. Everyone needs to regroup and reflect, I just hope that Yasiin Bey’s break doesn’t come at the cost of forgetting about young Black America.