Photos of Yasiin Bey taken by Jati Lindsay / Kennedy Center for Okayplayer.
The black reign is over, folks. Yasiin Bey, Mos Def, Pretty Flacko, Black Dante — however you call the man born Dante Smith — don’t call him to do a performance. It is no secret that the legendary Brooklyn MC is retiring to live a better life + challenge himself to do other things, but we must admit, it was hard to see him go. Our trusted journeyman photographer, Vickey Ford, was granted the inside access to chronicle one of the last few shows Bey was going to give the people. Definitely fortunate, since it was a pretty big deal: Yasiin Bey does three nights at the Kennedy Center.
From Dec. 31 till Jan. 3, Yasiin performed all of the hits and classics of his career, while playing the stage with some of the best in the business. Covering the stage with pink rose petals for each night, the Kennedy Center show was both grand opening and grand closing for a man who has endeared himself to us for almost two-and-a-half decades. Full of charisma, charm and stories, Yasiin blended art and hip-hop into a performance worthy of the man formerly known as the Mighty Mos Def.
On night uno, Black Orpheus played while he was joined by The Robert Glasper Experiment. Heading into the second night, Wild Style played, signifying his undying union with hip-hop and killed the stage with Pharoahe Monch performing “Oh No” and Simon Says”. Later on that same night, his Black Star brethren, Talib Kweli came out and they performed about five songs, which also featured Glasper on keys. On the final night, Yasiin played an informercial from the American Cancer Institute, as Slick Rick and Talib Kweli joined Yasiin for a rousing performance, which included Kweli’s “Get By”. Each and every night featured the master of the keys, Robert Glasper, flexing in some way of form during the Kennedy Center event. With no other surprise guests, one would have to wonder just how Yasiin was going to get the best from his audience.
Video taken by Alphus Comer.
At one point during nights two and three, the audience began to shout out songs they wanted to hear. “When we were doing the set list, y’all were busy,” he chided. “So, we took care of it,” to which the audience laughed in approval. He made jokes about it being laundry day and “don’t judge” him for his outfit. Another high moment came when Bey sat down at the Fender Rhodes and deliciously sang “The Panties” to all the lovers in the audience. On the third night, Glasper and Bey got a bit jazzy and did a cool blues rendition of “Boogeyman” and Bel Biv Devoe‘s “Poison” with Yasiin accompanying the Grammy Award winner on the drums.
All in all, it was an experience and quite a journey for us to experience through the eyes of Yasiin Bey. With Dec. 99th out now and plans for the last bit of music to come out this year, seeing him perform, live and in living color was quite the way to jumpstart one’s 2017.