It’s been nearly five years since Yasiin Bey announced his retirement from the music business through a freestyle via Kanye West’s website. The artist formerly known as Mos Def has popped up periodically with his most recent verse appearing on Navy Blue’s “Breathe” in December 2020.
In Dubai, The Arab News is reporting Bey has brought his immersive creative album to a popular art gallery. Negus is a 28-minute soundtrack for the audio-visual installation of the same name at The Third Line gallery. The eight-track offering was reportedly recorded in 2015. It is exclusive to the exhibit, therefore it cannot be streamed anywhere else. A strict policy prohibits guests from entering the installation with their phones. Lights are turned off and headphones are used to fully experience the art without distractions.
The artwork, handpicked by Bey, features creations from The Third Line alumni Nima Nabavi, Ala Ebtekar, Anuar Khalifi and Laleh Khorramian. A large video projection of rotating images presents some of the Brooklyn ex-rapper’s inner thoughts on materialism. A smaller screen shows his rhyme book, where visitors can see Bey’s actual lyrics like “Go there. Stay Fly. Dream Study. Dream. Dream. Dream. But wait concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate. Focus,” written in markers and colored pencils.
In a 2017 interview with Hot 97, Bey explained why he left rap. “I don’t want to deal with that and bring that home to my family,” he said at the time. “Or bring that to myself. I don’t want my mom to inherit the fucking PTSD from running around in the rap game. The beefs, people can’t get along for longer than 20 minutes. Everybody getting big bags of money but ‘you ain’t that, you ain’t this.’ Routing each other out on Instagram. What kind of shit is this?”
“I love the culture, but it looks like the technical process has surrounded it so that the only people who really benefit off of the culture are the algorithms,” he continued. “The technical process has taken precedence over the content, and people have modified the content to suit the technical process.”
Negus has been previously presented at art shows in Hong Kong, New York and in Morocco. The eight-track offering is the first since Bey released his 2016 collaborative album December 99th with writer and record producer Ferrari Sheppard. Next month, Bey is supposedly reuniting with Talib Kweli and Dave Chappelle to co-host “The Midnight Miracle” on Apple’s podcast network.