Mos Def may seem, to the casual observer, like a rare example of a musician successfully transitioning into acting, but in truth, his acclaimed music career did not take off until long after he'd cemented himself as a working actor. Nonetheless, the man has built both his music and film careers on a foundation of integrity, earning him critical praise and audience approval for both. His contributions to the underground hip-hop scene started with the 1996 single "Universal Magnetic," a rare example of introspection in a genre dominated by blustering and callousness. Def's film debut, however, came almost ten years before, when he appeared in the 1988 TV movie God Bless the Child at the age of 15. Then going by his birth name, Dante Terrell Smith, Mos Def landed appearances on shows like Here and Now, The Cosby Mysteries, Brooklyn South, Spin City, and NYPD Blue. The spots sustained his career throughout the '90s, as did his roles in feature films like Bamboozled and MTV's Carmen: A Hip Hopera. Slowly but steadily becoming a recognizable face in acting, Mos Def continued to take parts in high-quality films, even if this meant a lower profile for himself as an actor. His supporting roles in Monster's Ball, Brown Sugar, The Italian Job, and The Woodsman, however, garnered him attention on talent alone. In 2004, he co-starred in the HBO movie Something the Lord Made with Alan Rickman and was honored with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, along with Rickman. By the time Def appeared in 2005's Golden Globe award-winning HBO miniseries Lackawanna Blues alongside Terrence Howard and S. Epatha Merkerson, he was a recognized and sought-after face in film. Def soon afterward donned a British accent for a leading role in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, giving audiences a taste of his comedic skills. His next role was far more dramatic in nature, however, when he played a key witness hoping to avoid assassination in Richard Donner's 16 Blocks, co-starring with Bruce Willis.
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by Cammila Collar biography