Awards Season

Before Mahershala Ali Was Crowned an Oscar Winner, He Was Already a Prince of Rap

Moonlight's breakout star has serious skills as an MC.

Mahershala Ali has become a new dad and an Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor in the past week. But what really would have been the cherry on top is if he dropped a hot new album, too. If fate hadn't taken him to Hollywood, the star might have continued on with his promising career as a rapper in his native San Francisco Bay Area.

Prince Ali, as he used to call himself, released two albums (2006's Corner Ensemble and 2007's Curb Side Service) via Oakland's internationally-acclaimed label Hiero Imperium; you'll see Prince Ali wearing Hiero's world-famous three-eyed man in his video for "The Path/Honor."

His style as an MC was classic, confident, and dextrous, and the songs in his catalog favor the spiritual over the material. But that doesn't mean he couldn't also deliver some great lyrical jabs to weaker rappers.

Mahershala started off simultaneously establishing himself as a rapper and as an actor, appearing in television series including Crossing Jordan, Threat Matrix, and The 4400. While he eventually made a firm commitment to acting, hip hop was and still is an integral part of Mahershala's life.

“Hip-hop has definitely had a strong, perhaps the strongest influence on my life,” he recently told rap publication XXL. “I think there’s so many people of color, and even white kids, that have been tolerating the stresses of their own problems and what not and were able to navigate so many things through the culture of hip-hop and create jobs, have opportunities and been able to express themselves and finding their identity in. I think that’s true with so many people, definitely with me.”

Should the Oscar winner decide to drop another album in the near future, we're all ears.

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