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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  • As a born and raised Brooklyn resident, living walking distance from the stadiun, I feel where he’s coming from. The way people were tricked & bullied out of their homes was disgusting. Its also crazy that some people may be closed minded & perceive what he’s saying as an attack against Jay-Z. He is entitled to his beliefs and its refreshing to see someone in materialistic industy show he cannot be bought & that money isn’t everything

    • Chillyroad

      Mos Def is a phony.

    • AM

      First time, I’ve heard this. Kindly share why you think so?

    • Stef

      As someone also born and bred in Brooklyn . The Barkley center is not in the hood it’s in park slope the heart of gentrified Brooklyn
      With or without the stadium that part of Brooklyn was going to benefit white
      hipsters and transplants . Not the black people from crown heights , fort green and bed sty

    • Yes Stef! Fort Greene/ park slope/prospect heights were NEVER hood in my 25 yrs of living in bk. And to the point someone made about their friends getting jobs there…if they live in the neighborhood or any close proximity to it..I hope they are working executive jobs at Barclay’s becuase they will pretty soon get priced out of the neighborhood if they don’t own their homes or live in a rent stabilized building. I was soo pissed when Forest Ratner justified the stadium by claiming the residents were “poor” anyway. How is this a boon for black people if justification for building the stadium is based on the image of the so-called po’ blacks and can be easily sold as such because most people believe we all live in poverty. Some of the most vocal opponents of the stadium were whites who were being kicked out of their already pricey apartments. The Barclay’s center is just the icing on the gentrification cake of BK.

  • I do believe that whomever calls someone a sell out is simply a person who’s never been given an offer but Mos will always have respect because he’s the epitome of what it means to not always jump at the chance of having your soul bought and sold.

  • Child, Please

    Reading this reminds of when the housing projects were closed a few years go in Atlanta to build mixed income housing. People were given x amount of weeks or months notices and were given vouchers to find a new place, but only a handful of these housing projects have new housing infrastructure on it and most have just been displaced. It also reminds me when MARTA was first built and many business had to close down. Funny thing is now MARTA is having serious financial problems and at one point was in danger of being owned by the state. My friend has people who stay in BK and has recently visited and said the building was nice, but that’s about it. I wonder how much money these arenas bring to the communities they reside in, because the GA Dome is in Vince City and I haven’t seen much change in the area (and a new Walmart won’t help it!) other than folks being able to make some side money selling souvenirs and food among other things at the expense of the Falcons’ successful season. Just my take.

    • sankofa

      Oh wow a fellow Atlanta reader, but I’m sure there are alot of you here. Yes,I’m VERY familiar with the Vine City area and I’m glad someone is speaking on this. That entire 30 mile area has been divvied up and leveled. Heck five years ago I wouldn’t have thought of setting foot anywhere near “The Bluff” after 4pm, but only a few months ago I saw signs advertising new condos in the area. It pisses me off, because for so long these areas were virtually ignored and left to be consumed by poverty and violence. I still live in these areas I have family and friends in these areas and it brings me pain to know people can be uprooted for yuppie couples looking for cheap intown housing and sports centers.

  • Not every one can win the long term benifits, especially with employment, for the majority of the Brooklyn residents out weights the temporary discomfort of te few.

  • Gentrification is a funny thing. It seems like even if a neighborhood is improved, all that means is that the poor people need to move the f out and find somewhere else to live.

    Where I live, the white flight suburbs of the 50’s and 60’s are now the crappy places to live, because the white people decided they wanted to move back into the city. If you’ve lived in a neighborhood that is suddenly “hot” for many years, but you’re not a homeowner–you don’t benefit because you don’t make any money off of the increased property values.

    It just seems like the same -ish on a different day. I don’t take Yasiin’s comments as critical of Jay-z, but I wish people would open their eyes and start to look for _real_ solutions instead of things that (like the article said,) only serve to help the rich get richer.