Earlier this month Yasiin Bey aka as Mos Def quietly debuted his new album Negas (pronounced neh-goose) as a multi-media installation at the Brooklyn Museum. Over the years Mos Def has given us profound lyrics with blended sounds of rock and hip hop. Though this new album comes a surprise, given his absence from the industry, the real treat is the intended experience in store for listeners and fans.
The 8 track album was designed to be full listening installation and has no plans to be featured on any other mediums be it digital or analog. This album is purely physical and is all about sound and visual art. Upon entering the exhibit viewers are given headphones and asked to deposit phones in a secure case until the album has ended. For 28 minutes the installation space is quietly filled with viewers carefully scanning the art and bobbing along to the sounds of Yasiins voice. The installation includes artwork by Ala Ebtekar, Julie Mehretu, and José Parlá. It also includes a musical composing of Ethiopian pianist Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou. There is even a textile mural by Yasiin that pays tribute to those we’ve lost including Henrietta Lacks and the late Nipsey Hussle.
Although the album has been presented at various museums and galleries internationally, including Marrakesh, Hong Kong, and Dubai, this release marks the first in the US. At each location the exhibit has been tailored to fit the space and ensure viewers get the full experience. Needless to say, this release is special. In addition to being in Brooklyn, Yasiin’s home borough, the US debut of Negas coincides with the 20th anniversary of Black on Both Sides the iconic solo album that rocked hip hop back in 1999.
This album takes its title from the Ethiopian word for king or ruler which corresponds to the images seen in the installations mural. The unique set up/release of this album comes at a time where we are seeing more and more hip-hop artists blur the lines of music and fine art. This, however, is nothing new for Yasiin and longtime fans of Mos Def will not be disappointed in this immersive experience.
This installation is running at the Brooklyn Museum now through January 26, 2020, and tickets are highly recommended. Visit Brooklynmuseum.org for tickets and showing hours.