Brooklyn-born rapper Mos Def is one of (underground) hip hop’s finest. He’s witty, bar heavy, insightful and socially/politically conscious. He’s also a pretty good actor!

Mos Def, real name is Dante Terrell Smith, has since changed his (professional) name to Yasiin Bey. He’s released four (solo) albums in his career on top of numerous collaborative projects. Today though, we’re looking back at his debut album, Black on Both Sides, which came out came out in 1999 – 16 years ago.

Other albums that dropped in 199, just to give you a sense of the climate, were: Jay-Z – Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, Nas – Nastradamous, Dr. Dre – 2001 and Eminem’s Slim Shady LP. 1999, was a prominent year in hip hop – and years away from streaming, physical copies reigned supreme.

Black on Both Sides, received a lot of positive feedback when it came back. The Source gave it 4 stars, AllMusic gave it 5 stars and Rolling Stone gave it 3 ½ (shade right?). Overall, the reviews for this album were 3 and better. The album made it to number 25 on the top Billboard 200 and number 3 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums.

In my opinion, this album was ahead of its time. Songs like Hip Hop changed the game, with lyrics like: “I’m getting big props, with this thing called hip hop/ where you can either get paid or get shot/when your product in stock.” Mos Def had people becoming fans overnight.

In hindsight, Mr. Nigga now reminds me of Kendrick Lamar’s song The Black the Berry; both of the songs touch on the topic of racism and social injustice in our society. One of my personal favorites, still to this day, is Ms. Fat Booty. If that song is played in any club now, it’s a guarantee that everyone will go off.

Hip hop has changed, but artists like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar continue to carry on – and evolve – the realness the genre once bolstered, as does Mos himself! The interesting part of Black on Both Sides, is that it came out in 1999 but it sounds fresh as ever!

I just hope 16 years from now, we will still have music like this album. So the legacy of hip hop will never die.


Check out our exclusive Mos Def mix below.