When it comes to hip hop, Yasiin Bey, or Mos Def, needs no introduction. Standout work includes “Umi Says” and “Ms. Fat Booty” from “Black on Both Sides” (1999) to the groundbreaking, conscious flow alongside Talib Kweli as “Black Star”. Recently, the artist has been wrapped up in a major controversy due to a passport issue in South Africa. Last week, Reuters announced that Bey was arrested at an airport in Cape Town while boarding a flight for Ethiopia. After attempting to use a “World Passport”, Bey was charged with violating South Africa’s immigration laws.
The concept of a World Passport may seem foreign to some, but the document is in fact, legit, and created by a Washington, D.C. non-profit called World Service Authority since 1954. However, as it stands today, it is not recognized by certain countries like South Africa, and it is illegal for anyone to use it when travelling. Yasiin has resided in South Africa since 2013 with his mother, wife and four children, but are now required to leave the country by January 29th. Sympathetic fans have taken to social media, posting photos and videos showing support using the hashtags #freeyasiin and #nomorepartiesinSA. Bey and his family will face trial on March 8th surrounding the immigration issues.
In response, Bey released a freestyle through Kanye West’s website on Tuesday night. “I’ll leave and I’ll stay away / I committed no crime any place / Why these police up in my face? / Why they raiding my place? / Why I don’t feel safe?” he states. Expressing his frustration about the situation, he said he was, “Being prevented from leaving unjustly, unlawfully, and without any logical reason.”
“Anyone can do the research about the world passport; it’s not a fictitious document,” he continued, saying that his intentions were not meant to deceive. “I have reason to believe or suspect that there are political motivations behind the way I’m being treated.” Bey alternated from more coherent lines to abstract stream of consciousness. “The state of South Africa is interfering with my ability to move or even fulfill my professional obligations. We don’t have to be enemies and we don’t have to be friends, either,” he added. “We don’t have to be here. We’re complying in every possible way reasonably. Just today, state officials visited my domicile, asking questions about me and my family and they had no legal right to do so.”
After a brief shout out and “thank you” to Ye, Talib Kweli and the Zulu Nation, Bey made his final announcement from the clip. “I’m retiring from the music recording industry as it is currently assembled today and also from Hollywood, effective immediately,” he said. “I’m releasing my final album this year and that’s that. Peace to all. Fear of none.” Read through a full transcript of the recording here.
With rampant social injustice occurring at an alarming rate, it’s clear that hip hop needs him now more than ever. Words like “Shine your light for the world to see,” are just as relevant today as they were back in ‘99. Hip hop aficionados can only hope that this upcoming album won’t be his last act.