Mahershala Ali Returning To His Musical Roots For Secret New Project

Ali plays a jazz musician in his new movie, "Green Book," and was once a rap musician known as Prince Ali.

Mahershala Ali
Presley Ann / Getty Images for MVD Inc.

Ali plays a jazz musician in his new movie, "Green Book," and was once a rap musician known as Prince Ali.

Mahershala Ali is most widely known as a Hollywood actor. He won an Oscar and numerous other awards for his portrayal of Juan in 2016’s critically acclaimed box office success, Moonlight. He was also recognized for his performance as Remy Danton in Netflix’s House of Cards, as well as for his roles in Luke Cage and Hidden Figures. Acting, however, was not Ali’s first venture into the entertainment business. As reported by Daily Mail, he released two rap albums under the moniker Prince Ali — one in 2006, and the other in 2007. In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, the forty-four-year-old said he’s currently working on a new music project.

In his latest role, Mahershala Ali plays jazz musician Don Shirley. Based on a true story, Green Book follows Shirley and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) as they travel through the 1962 south in the United States. Shirley hires Vellelonga to “run interference” for him when inevitable problems arise during the Jim Crow era as the highly talented and aristocratic Shirley takes his music to a series of locations throughout the south. Audiences are treated to some outstanding piano, something Ali admitted was actually done by a stand-in actor, but he is no stranger to the music scene, something brought up by Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan during Ali’s appearance there.

During his GMA interview, Strahan referred to one of the ways Shirley helps Vellelonga in Green Book, assisting him in writing love letters to his wife. The show’s host said, “You’re a man of words in real life.” Ali laughed as Strahan continued, saying, “You used to be a rapper by the name of Prince Ali” just before showing a clip of a video the musician-turned-actor created during his rap days.

Ali did more than sing; he founded a label known as Eye5 Recordings in 2006. He described his love for hip-hop music in 2017.

“I love hip hop. It’s such an appendage for me. It’s something that’s always shaped my experience out in the world. I always make mixtapes for every character that I’m playing. Sonically, that character has a soundtrack.”

He went on to explain that hip-hop had “perhaps the strongest influence” on his life.

Strahan asked Ali whether he was still writing rap in his free time, to which he said that he’s been working on something for a couple of years that’s related to “a project associated specifically with a film” but that he has no intention to pursue rap as a career path. He provided no details on the film for which he’s working on his new music.

You can view the full GMA interview with Ali below.