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Before Mahershala Ali Was An Oscar-Winning Actor He Was A Pretty Good Rapper

Mahershala Ali is a great actor. This was confirmed last night after Ali took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his scene-stealing performance in Moonlight. What makes Ali’s win so amazing is that acting isn’t his only talent.

He was once a pretty good rapper called Prince Ali. During the mid-2000s, while he was a graduate student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ali moonlighted as a rapper, releasing two underground albums and starting an independent label called Eye5 Recordings.

If you head to Prince Ali’s iTunes page, there’s a pretty nifty bio. Here is an excerpt:

Bay Area rhymesayer Prince Ali’s verbal assault combines a flaunting, B-boy-like swagger with nuances of spirituality, a strong implication of his Souls of Mischief influence. Born in Oakland, CA, but raised a few miles south in Hayward, CA, Ali was inspired to be an MC in the mid-’80s by the king B-boys of hip-hop, Run-D.M.C. After he completed his graduate program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he founded Eye5 Recordings in 2006, putting forth a stable of progressive rap artists, including L.A. hip-hop band Destruments and three-man crew Pacific Sonz (of which he is a member).

A song and video to check out is “The Path,” which features Rakaa Iriscience from Dilated Peoples. The funniest part of this video is when Ali gets at “Cottonmouths who can’t spit em out.” This is hilarious, of course, because Ali would go on to play Cottonmouth in the 2016 Netflix show Luke Cage.

Just more proof that if you put it out there, it will come true.

H/T: AV Club 



Dimas Sanfiorenzo

Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes in coverage centered around music, pop culture, and politics. Email:

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