The world of Yasiin Bey has been a strangely turbulent one since he took a step back from the limelight. The drama started sometime after he officially changed his performance moniker from Mos Def to Yasiin Bey in 2012, packed his bags and moved from his native Brooklyn to Cape Town, South Africa, a move that baffled critics and fans alike. He made headlines again in 2013, releasing a video wherein he undergoes the force-feeding process imposed on detainees who protest their incarceration through fasting in the notorious U.S. off-shore detention centre, Guantanamo Bay. This earned him fairly equal amounts of both support and scorn, many turning to social media to either condemn the sensationalism or celebrate his courage in shedding light on the harrowing and brutal treatment of those held at GTMO, which unfortunately still operates today.
Following that, in January of this year, Yasiin Bey was refused passage and detained by border officials in Johannesburg, South Africa, on attempting to leave the country via the use of a travel document known as a World Passport. While originally reported as a fictitious document by news sources in South Africa, the World Passport has actually been used and recognised by many countries worldwide for over half a century now, having been originally distributed by the World Service Authority (a non-profit set up in the U.S. after World War II to advocate for world citizenship) as far back as 1954. Yasiin himself stated that he has used the document on numerous occasions travelling both to and from South Africa in both Johannesburg and Cape Town “as early as 1996 and as late as 2015; you can see the stamps, they’re there at the World Service Authority for anybody to investigate”.
Weeks after his detainment, a mysterious audio message appeared on Kanye West’s website on behalf of Yasiin Bey. He begins with a loosely formed freestyle titled No More Parties in SA (a play on the title of the new Kanye track, No More Parties in LA), in which he addresses his continuing detainment and ongoing mistreatment from police and government officials in South Africa to date, despite having not broken a single law with his actions (“It’s curious; I haven’t broken any law, and I’m being treated like a criminal. I know I’m not unique in that regard”). After No More Parties…, Bey directly addresses the strange and questionable treatment his family has received since his detainment in January, stating “I’ve made no false claims, I have not falsely represented myself; I am under unnecessary state supervision and scrutiny, and I have reason to believe or suspect that there are political motivations behind the way that I’m being treated because this is following no reasonable trend of logic”. In a surprising move, Bey also states “I am retiring from the music recording industry as it is currently assembled today, and also from Hollywood, effective immediately. I’ll be releasing my final album this year, and that’s that.”
The details are murky on exactly what transpired next, but on November 25th, after almost a year of radio silence regarding the matter, it was reported that Yasiin Bey was finally allowed to leave South Africa. Bey will not be granted re-entry, so where he resides currently in the world is anybody’s guess, but immediately following his departure Bey announced a very limited string of four shows in America to close out his career. On each night, Bey intends to play select tracks from one of his four solo albums – from Black On Both Sides through to The Ecstatic – as well as a dash of new material and a handful of surprise guests. He also announced two new ‘final’ albums in addition to the original ‘final’ album December 99th, a collaboration with Chicago producer Ferrari Sheppard, which he stated would see a worldwide release exclusively through TIDAL on December 9th.
Well, we all held our breath, and December 9th came and went with not even a peep from Bey or Sheppard regarding the album. Nothing. Days later, a statement in the form of a cryptic message appeared on their collaborative “Global Multimedia and Design Conglomerate” website, A Country Called Earth. The message read:
Dark bodies, bright crest, the kings grew nervous.
A boy drew a gun and then sold the portrait. And then used the cash to heat the stove at the palace.
soon. very soon.
So with the first date of his final shows fast approaching, Bey seemingly remains adamant that this is it, and that after this he will have effectively retired from the music and film industry. Though it should be noted that in his initial message he clearly stated he was retiring from the music industry “as it is assembled today”, and Hollywood specifically, rather than the entire film industry. And when you consider the continually growing number of ‘last albums’ and the emergence of A Country Called Earth, for a guy set to retire any minute now it certainly doesn’t seem that Yasiin Bey is showing any signs of slowing. Some have speculated that his retirement announcement could have been due to political pressures in South Africa and that these final plans are a part of a greater picture that will be revealed in time. Whatever the case, things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser in the endlessly fascinating case of Yasiin Bey and the World Passport.
For anybody blessed enough to be in America right now or in the very immediate future, Yasiin Bey’s final dates are as follows:
December 21st – Apollo Theater, Harlem, NY
December 31st – Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
January 1st – Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
January 2nd – Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
The last known musical whereabouts of Yasiin Bey were documented in Paris last year, where he filmed a seven-part film project featuring cover versions of (MF) DOOM songs. Check out all seven parts of the BeyOnDoom project below: