Nearly four years after Mos Def announced that he was retiring his name and becoming Yasiin Bey, the rapper has dusted off his old moniker for “Sensei on the Block,” a surprise collaboration between the rapper and producer Ski Beatz. The track, which appeared on iTunes today with little warning, finds Bey – whose output has slowed in recent years – rifling an impressive, effortless flow packed with voluminous wordplay over Beatz’s lurking steel drum-heavy production.
“Funky drummers / daughters and sons / stunners / elders and youngers / to measurement put y’all in numbers,” the rapper rhymes on the cut. Keeping with the karate theme of the title, artwork and chorus (“Chop, chop,” Mos Def repeats), “Sensei on the Block” also features the rapper singing the hook from Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” a song off The Karate Kid soundtrack. It’s unclear whether “Sensei on the Block” is part of a larger project, but martial arts is an ongoing motif within Ski Beatz’s music; He’s released three installments of his 24 Hour Karate School solo albums.
After dropping the song on iTunes, Ski Beatz tweeted, “Hope you guys are enjoying that ‘Sensei On The Block’ joint!! Let me know. Next step is to get Mos to do this full length with ya boy!”
After laying low musically in recent years, Bey has slowly started to reenter the hip-hop world by guesting at a Kendrick Lamar festival appearance, featuring on A$AP Rocky’s “Back Home” (as Mos Def) and surprise-releasing his new single/video “Basquiat Ghostwriter.”