One of the highlights of last night’s Academy Awards ceremony (aside from, well, that) was seeing actor Mahershala Ali win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn in Moonlight. It was a nuanced, soulful performance that stands out even on Ali’s considerable résumé, which includes supporting turns in House Of Cards, The Hunger Games series, Luke Cage, and many more. While many first became aware of Ali for his role on the USA series The 4400 or in 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, others may have bought his album.
Yep, in the mid-2000s, Ali released two hip-hop records under the name of Prince Ali. He found some success, too, even collaborating with Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples on his 2007 album Curb Side Service. It was his second album, following the previous year’s Corner Ensemble. By 2008, however, his acting career took precedence.
That doesn’t mean Ali’s love for hip-hop has diminished at all. Here’s what he said in a 2016 interview with XXL:
“Hip-hop has definitely had a strong, perhaps the strongest influence on my life. I don’t think I’m at all unique with that. 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. It’s an appendage. It’s a part of me.”
In an interview with Complex, he also discussed how he likes to make Spotify playlists for his characters. And now we really, really want to hear what he’s putting on the one for James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel.