Yasiin Bey Clarifies His Drake Comments With A Strong Message
Earlier this month, a rare Yasiin Bey interview led to high-profile controversy. The MC/producer formerly known as Mos Def was asked his opinions on Drake during an interview with podcast host OMONDI for her The Cutting Room Floor. While the full episode lives behind a Patreon paywall, Yasiin’s response to the question of “Is Drake Hip-Hop?” prompted coverage—when he reacted with visible strain.
Yasiin replied, “Why are you doing this to me?” in his non-speaking voice. The video clip circulated by The Cutting Room Floor socials featured several cuts. In the Instagram clip posted on their account, Yasiin then further responded, “Drake is pop to me, in the sense like, if I was in Target in Houston and I heard a Drake song… it feels like a lot of his music is compatible with shopping.”
Moments later, the Brooklyn, New Yorker and Black Star co-founder said, “Wooo! So many products!” The host chimed in, “So many SKUs,” prompting Yasiin to echo that point about barcodes. “Look at all these SKUs! Oh, so many products…I love this mall! Look at this place. I mean, look at this place! They have everything! Everything’s here! They have everything here. Oh, this is great.” As with the top of the clip, Yasiin Bey appeared to be using a character voice in his take. “This the new Drake. You hear it? It’s great.” In that moment, he switches back to his speaking voice. “Okay. What happens when this thing collapses?”
In a more extended version of the clip, Yasiin further expounded. “What happens when the columns start buckling? Are we not in some early stage of that, at this present hour? Are we seeing the collapse of the empire? Buying and selling, where’s the message that I can use? What’s in it for your audience apart from banging the pom-poms?”
That commentary prompted a brief, but not-so-subtle reaction from Drake on Instagram. The MC/singer referenced Yasiin’s own singing hit from 1999, “UMI Says” and included a visual reference to Method Man from a vintage interview clip about Hip-Hop.
Tonight (January 29), Yasiin updated his position. In an Instagram Live video from Monday night, Yasiin revealed that he reached out to Drake through mutual connection Dave Chappelle. The former G.O.O.D. Music artist adds that he has also attempted to direct-message Drake, without response.
In the video, Yasiin does attempt to speak directly to Drake. The video features multiple references to crises happening. “Free Gaza. Free Palestine. Free Sudan. Free Congo. Free wifi,” he touted. Yasiin led with gratitude, while corresponding with several commenters.
“I’d like you all to hear what I have to say, as it relates to some of the comments that I made about Drake,” he shares. “First of all, I don’t hate anyone. My opinion is mine. It’s legal in state, as far as I’m aware. It was not an opportunity to try and slander him or to clown on him. I have reached out to him; I have no responses yet. But I’m not keen to talk about people or to them through a screen; I prefer to talk to people directly. But I will say this: the young man is very talented. He’s been able to be very successful with that talent, and I have no issue with his success, or [with] anything that he’s been able to achieve as a result of his talent. I do feel that some of the criticism that he has received in the past has been mean-spirited and unfair. So I don’t want to participate in that. And if I was perceived to be harsh or mocking or taunting, that is not my intention. And Drake—if you’re watching or you come across this, that is not my intention brother. I never had no issue with you personally; I don’t know you well enough to even have any sort of issue with you in that regard.”
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Yasiin then expounded. “Nonetheless, it’s not sacrilegious to have an opinion or a critique of a public figure, particularly one of that magnitude in current, modern culture. It was a question that I was asked, and I answered as earnestly, as diplomatically as I possibly could,” he said with a small chuckle. “Forgive my Brooklyn.”
Bey then asserted a bigger point. “Let me be clear with this: at this given time that we are all living through, this is not where the focus ought to be. But one artist or MC thinks about another one [is not the focus]. I get it; it’s what people notice, and the different media outlets seized on that one aspect of the interview that I had with [The Cutting Room Floor], and they completely ignored the context. They completely ignored the context,” he repeated. “What I was speaking about was a larger reality, in my opinion, which I feel, is totally valid. There was no slander or intended slander at all. And that’s the size of it. I wish that there was this much energy about human rights, and real justice, and resolving real life or death conflicts where blood is happening—and some of that blood is the blood of innocents and children.”
Yasiin continues, “We can notice things that are happening in global culture. But where we put our focus matters. So I would encourage you all to not be distracted by the arcade lights of faux conflicts where the stakes are really not as urgent as they’re being promoted to be, and to direct your focus to what really matters in your own personal lives—in your immediate environment, and in our social environment. They’re all sharing.” Moments later, Yasiin doubled down that he is not here to taunt or mock anybody, and that he means no harm.
Over a minute later, Yasiin Bey reiterates: “Free Palestine. Free Gaza. Free Sudan. Free Congo. Free wifi. Free everything that need to be freed.” He then reminds Drake that he has reached out, adding “You are a very talented MC.” He then says his point, on his own terms. “But for me, I require more of myself and others than just talent or charm or charisma—particularly in times of urgent crisis. And what I would like to see, in terms of creators or creative people in the world as it relates to our culture, is for people to connect with us beyond the jukebox or the dance-floor. A fair-weather friend can hardly be called a friend at all; the people who party with you—that’s cool, but will they show up when you’re at the triage, or you’re in a crisis situation? And all friendships are tested—not in times of ease—but in times of hardship. So, for whatever you perceive, for whatever your level of understanding is or is not, we can all agree—across spectrums—that this is a critical time for human beings, in terms of human endeavor.” Moments later, he says, “It’s not easy, but it ain’t difficult either.” He then quotes his own lyrics, in 2022’s Black Star song “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Yasiin closed the IG live with The 99 Names Of Allah, which he calls “the prayer of the oppressed against the oppressors.” He encourages all faith-goers to join him in this prayer.