Date of Birth: December 11, 1973
Born Dante Terrell Smith in Brooklyn New York, Mos Def began acting professionally onscreen at the age of 14 in the ABC-TV movie God Bless the Child (1988). By the time he was 16, Def was a regular on the CBS sitcom You Take the Kids, playing Nell Carter's oldest son. He made his feature film debut in The Hard Way (1991), a comedy starring Michael J. Fox and James Woods. Now calling himself Dante Bezé, Def landed another regular role on the hour-long crime drama series The Cosby Mysteries (1994 to 1995), starring Bill Cosby as a criminologist with the NYPD.
By 1995, Smith, having changed his name to Mos Def (a slang term that means "most definitely"), had begun his music career. His first music group was Urban Thermo Dynamics, which also included his younger brother and sister. With the release of "Universal Magnetic" (1996), he became an underground favorite in the hip hop world. His 1999 solo debut, "Black On Both Sides," was certified gold.
Returning to film, Def played a role in Island of the Dead and Bamboozled (both 2000), followed by the critically-acclaimed Monster's Ball (2002), featuring the Oscar-winning performance of Halle Berry. No slouch himself when it comes to awards, Smith has received Teen Choice and Image Award nominations for his supporting role in Brown Sugar (2002) and Black Reel nominations for his work in Civil Brand (2002), The Italian Job (2003), the TV movie Something the Lord Made (2004) and The Woodsman (2005), winning the award for the latter. He also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his lead role in Something the Lord Made.
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Def plays Ford Prefect, and he will appear in the sequel to The Italian Job. He has also made guest appearances on TV shows such as NYPD Blue, Brooklyn South, Spin City and My Wife and Kids.
Def served as the host, music supervisor and co-executive producer for the HBO series Def Poetry and was a writer, producer and actor on the MTV sketch comedy series Lyricist Lounge. He made his Broadway debut in the 2002 Tony-nominated Topdog/Underdog. Def also continues to work on his music, having released his highly-anticipated sophomore solo release, "The New Danger" in 2004. The first single, "Sex, Love and Money" earned Def a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative/Urban Performance and the album has been certified gold by the RIAA.
Mos Def has recently been acting under the name yasiin bey, in movies such as Life of Crime and Can a Song Save Your Life?, both of which screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Can a Song Save Your Life? (2013)
Life of Crime (2013)
Next Day Air (2009)
Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Journey to the End of the Night (2007)
16 Blocks (2006)
The Italian Job II (2006)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The Woodsman (2005)
The Italian Job (2003)
Brown Sugar (2002)
Civil Brand (2002)
Monster's Ball (2002)
Island of the Dead (2000)
Where's Marlowe? (2000)
The Hard Way (1991)