After several outlets reported that rapper/actor Yasiin Bey (previously known by his stage name Mos Def) was cast in the leading role of the forthcoming Thelonious Monk biopic, Thelonious, Bey has announced that he will no longer be starring as the jazz great and has walked away from the film.
Earlier this week, a press release from Jupiter Rising Film, a production company headed by Peter Lord Moreland and Alberto Marzan stated that filming for Thelonious would begin next summer and that Bey would portray Monk in the film. However, according to reports, T.S. Monk, son of Thelonious Monk and chairman and co-founder of Rhythm-A-Ning Entertainment, claims that the film was not authorized by Monk’s family and estate and that they are in opposition of its release.
“This project and its announcement are totally unauthorized! I hate the script and I control the music in Thelonious’ catalog,” Monk wrote in a statement. “There is no involvement by anyone in the Monk family with this project, and we actually condemn the effort.”
Bey, who has spoken out against the politics and exploitation within the entertainment industry, revealed his solidarity with the Monk family in a clip posted on Instagram, in which he explained the reasoning behind him leaving the project.
“Let me be clear, if the Monk estate is not happy with it, if Mr. Monk III is not happy with it, then neither am I,” explained Bey. “To be clear, I was given every indication by the production company that the family was on board. It was one of my primary questions.”
However, he did leave the door open to return to the project, albeit with the Monk family’s blessing, adding that if the opportunity arises again, he’ll play the role.
The opportunity to see Bey flex his acting chops in Thelonious would’ve been great, but an even greater consolation prize may be the release of another Black Star album, which fans have been requesting for more than 20 years. In June, Bey and fellow Black Star member Talib Kweli gave fans an update on the album during an episode of the latter’s weekly podcast, People’s Party with Talib Kweli, with Bey expressing his frustration with fans pressing him about the status of its release.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm, but that s–t is not a steering wheel in my back for you to start spinning and doing donuts like I’m disappointing you,” he said. “If you want the next Black Star album that bad, then you make it. So just chill out until we get the s–t sorted out cause who the f–k is more essential to Black Star than Black Star?”
Check out the episode of People’s Party with Talib Kweli below: