Yasiin Bey, the rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def, debuted a new song, “HYMN,” on Monday (Aug. 1) exclusively on TIDAL.
For the track, the 42-year-old teamed up with Ferrari Sheppard again. Together, the two make up the group Dec 99th. In the song, Bey raps about life, death and the violence that sometimes happens in between. “How many views when the blood ooze?” he asks in the track. “I’m confused.” Later on he repeats “This is what death can’t kill…life.”
This is the fourth collaboration between the Bey and Sheppard. In the past, Sheppard provided the production for Yasiin Bey’s songs “N.A.W.,” “Tall Sleeves,” and “Local Time.” The two also appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s travel show, The Getaway, where they headed to Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2014.
The song comes via A$AP Rocky’s label, AWGE, which is a “small but secretive internal art direction team,” according to Complex.
But the new song comes as somewhat of a surprise to Bey’s fans. Eight months ago, Bey announced his retirement from the music industry. “I’m retiring from the music recording industry as it is currently assembled today, and also from Hollywood, effective immediately,” read a message from Bey on Kanye West’s website. “I’ll be releasing my final album this year. And that’s that.”
But in the mix of his retirement, the Brooklynite found himself in a heap of trouble. During that time, in January 2016, Bey was ordered to leave South Africa, where he’s been residing since 2013. The order comes after Bey allegedly used an unauthorized “world passport” and overstayed his tourist visa by illegally living in the country for two years. As punishment, the country is banning him in South Africa for five years.
Bey is known for his efforts in fighting against social injustice. In 2013, Bey teamed up with human rights organization, Reprieve, to showcase the force-feeding process used by officials to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camps.
He also teamed up with Kweli to start Hip Hop for Respect, an effort to end police brutality after the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo.
He’s also spoken out against the death sentence of Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal and against the $1 million bounty on another Black Panther Party, Assata Shakur, who resides in Cuba.
Similar to “HYMN,” Bey often shows his activism through his music.
In the 1999 track, “New World Water,” Bey rapped about the politics surrounding water. “Used to have minerals and zinc in it (New World Water) / Now they say it got lead and stink in it (New World Water) / Fluorocarbons and monoxide / Push the water table lopside / Used to be free now it cost you a fee / Cause oil tankers spill they load as they roam cross the sea,” he rapped.
Yasiin Bey Says “Never Stop Pursuing Freedom” On New Song, ‘Hymn’ pic.twitter.com/CIHHhIb5Z0— Okayafrica (@okayafrica) August 1, 2016
Bey has been a force in music — specifically hip-hop — since he teamed up with Talib Kweli to form the duo, Black Star, in the late ’90s. Since then, the Brooklynite released four widely-celebrated solo efforts: 1999’s Black on Both Sides, 2004’s The New Danger, 2006’s True Magic, and 2009’s The Ecstatic. The latter of which was nominated for a Grammy Award. He’s also know for his acting career. Bey appeared in the 2002 romantic-comedy, Brown Sugar, the adventure film, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the action blockbuster, 16 Blocks with Bruce Willis, among others. He’s also slated to appear in the science-fiction thriller, The Disconnected. The film will reportedly be his last “live action” role.
Sheppard has a few accolades under his belt as well. On top of being a visual artist and producer, he also curates content for his site, Stop Being Famous.
Bey has yet to reveal the title for his forthcoming album. TIDAL members and non-TIDAL members can stream “Hymn” here.
[Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images]