Yasiin Bey has much to smile about these days.
The artist formerly known as the Mighty Mos Def returned to Brooklyn to celebrate a few milestones: the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Black on Both Sides, the 10th anniversary of The Ecstatic, and to premiere his music-and-art exhibit, Negus.
At the Brooklyn Museum, famous friends such as Q-Tip, Dave Chappelle, and Ouigi Theodore joined attendees to experience the eight track, 28-minute effort while surrounded by three large paintings created by José Parlá, Ala Ebtekar, Jullie Mehretu, and Bey himself.
Stripped to its barest essentials, Negus sees Bey questioning modernity in today’s times, while using poetry and improvisational rhythms to connect Blackness to nobility (“Negus” means “emperor” or “noble person” in the Ethiopian language Ge’ez). Driving, off-kilter drum machine beats fuel Negus, along with early ‘80s electro sounds which makes this project the most minimalist arrangement Bey has ever released.
The artwork, “Shakur the beloved of the Eastern band,” “Azimuth,” and “Pleasant,” were made in response to the album. The latter — a 60-foot-long textile mural made from hemp — celebrates “overlooked historical figures” such as Henrietta Lacks and Nipsey Hussle. It is a layered experience worth seeing that expands on the notion that music is just as vital as anything one can hang up on a wall.
yasiin bey: Negus runs from Nov. 15, 2019—Jan. 26, 2020. You can buy tickets here.