There isn't much that Mos Def can't do. Grammy-nominated albums? Check. Appearing in socially conscious films? Check. Appearing in big-budget blockbusters? Check. Broadway? Check. Rappers that act usually end up marginalized in one medium or the other; they're regarded as vain if they appear onscreen, and they lose street cred if they continue to produce albums, getting labeled as sellouts. But Mos Def has toed that line masterfully, opting for quirky, vulnerable roles onscreen and an equally offbeat, yet almost universally lauded discography. 1999's Black on Both Sides became an instant classic (as has last year's The Ecstatic) and his tongue-twisting, stream-of-consciousness delivery has given every wannabe rapper something to which to aspire, while simultaneously setting the baseline for real deals vs. the sucker MCs. You don't listen to Mos Def as much as stare in amazement at his formidable skill set and wonder, "How does he do that?" It's not magic, but it's somewhere in the neighborhood. With Dessa.
Mon., Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m., 2010