That’s Professor Def to you

I managed to catch Mos Def playing in Ann Arbor the other night. His show was on MLK Day and was dedicated to the memory of J Dilla, the slain Detroit producer.

I’ve got to say it was a really interesting style of show. For those of you who’ve ever been to the Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan, you know it’s not exactly the traditional hip hop spot. Plush, upholstered, assigned seating is not the way I normally catch these shows, but it did lend a kind of legitimacy to Mos’ performance. Middle aged men in blazers and turtlenecks were sitting next to 16 year old hoodlums in hats and hoodies, and yet there was no sign of tension. That’s the real magic of Mos. He can manage to bring together one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever seen at a show, and unite them all.

Mos, debuting a band he called “Watermelon”, was unbelievable. It was originally billed as Mos Def and the Mos Def Big Band, but apparently not all of the Big Band came along. Instead, this is yet another of Mos’ side projects (Similar to Black Jack Johnson, the band he used on The New Danger). They were phenomenal as a live band. All of them were very talented musicians, and really made art out of playing J Dilla beats live. Mos, of course, was impeccable. The whole show had a very jazzy air to it, and it seemed that half of the time Mos was just doing whatever he felt like, improving a little to the beats.

Obviously the crowd was going crazy when Mos finally did Ms Fat Booty, but I think that the people were even more impressed and surprised when they heard Mos covering other songs. It was not at all what I expected, to hear this live jazzy beat and hear Mos cover Pharcyde or Eric B & Rakim. But he did a fantastic job, of course.

Still, the biggest surprise must have come at the end of the show. The crowd was on their feet, swaying, dancing, and completely wrapped up in the music. Enough yelling and cheering managed to get Mos and the band back out for an incredibly high-energy encore, which was just amazing. The music stopped. An official from the University walked on stage. He began his speech simply enough, talking about how great it was to see everyone coming out to honour Dr. King. How great the performance was. How great the whole day had been. He smiled, this incredibly large smile. As if he knew he was about to do something great. We all knew an award was coming, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be this. He took a deep breath, and announced that they were giving Mos Def an honorary visiting professorship! That’s right. That’s Professor Def to you!

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