Mos Def

To true hip-hop heads he’s Mos Def, but these days the conscious rapper is going by the name Yasiin Bey and the new moniker is already making a name for its self.  When the Barclay Center opened in Brooklyn last September to great fanfare, there was one Brooklynite who was less than thrilled.  Yasiin, a fifth-generation BK head, felt uneasy about the stadium’s arrival in its highly congested, deeply rooted neighborhood.  In an effort to express exactly how he was feeling about the new stadium, he did was most lyricist do and put pen to paper.

Hesitant to have the piece perceived as an attack on Jay-Z, who is essential the face of the stadium, Yasiin held off on releasing the poem, however, now that the poem has been made public, he wants people to know that his beef isn’t with Hov, but with the negative affect he feels the Barclay Center is having on the borough he calls home.  In a recent interview Yasiin says:

“It’s not a secret what happened. The narrative around a local boy done good, it has an emotional impact on me too. From looking out those small project windows thinking the world is moving by you and you’re never gonna be able to move with it, to being able to move the world? It’s a strong narrative in America. It inspires people and it touches people. I think people connected to that, and that swept some real issues under the rug. Jay became such an emotional centerpiece for the stadium, it almost felt sacrilegious to criticize it.

You don’t wanna take away from someone’s victory lap. But I talk to people that felt the same way. People lost their homes, people lost their businesses. Triangle Sports, it took up a whole block, been there a hundred years — they gotta go! That’s the market. The Drake lyric, “money over everything”? I just don’t agree with that as a business process or a worldview or anything.

My concern is, none of those people who built that stadium know what it’s like to grow up in the projects. And the people in the neighborhood don’t yet benefit from the stadium’s presence in the community. I would love for Barclays and the NBA and whoever else to prove me wrong, by engaging in the community, not just on some [surface] level for the photo-op. But to really be concerned with enriching the lives of people in that community.”

As a born and bred BK resident, I definitely feel where Yasiin (ok is anyone else finding it hard to get used to this new name?) is coming from.  Not only was that area already congested, but as he stated so many people lost homes and jobs so the Nets would have somewhere to play and some already rich men could get richer.

On the flipside to that same coin, however, the stadium is a big deal for a borough only now getting its shine as a great place to live.  I know kids from my neighborhood who work at that stadium to help their families, for them the stadium is a lifesaver. How do you tell them it’s a bad move?

With the stadium less than a year old, it’s hard to tell what its true impact is or will be, but with so much at stake, let’s hope people like Yasiin Bey are proven wrong.

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