‘Moonlight’ Star Mahershala Ali Used to Be a Rapper!

A surprising switch! Before Oscar winner Mahershala Ali’s acting career took off, he was a well-known Bay Area rapper who went by the stage name Prince Ali.

According to Ali’s iTunes biography, after completing his graduate program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he founded his own imprint, Eye5 Recordings, in 2006. He dropped his first mixtape, Corner Ensemble, the same year, which caught the attention of a larger San Francisco-based record label. By 2007, he released his first album, Curb Side Service, including tracks “The Path” and “The Majors.”

Mahershala Ali rappingMahershala Ali

Shortly after, the now 46-year-old started nabbing major movies roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2. He has also starred in two hit Netflix series, House of Cards (as Remy Danton) and Luke Cage (as Cottonmouth Stokes).

Mahershala Ali Oscars 2017Mahershala Ali attends the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. John Shearer/Getty Images

This year, the multi-talented Ali earned major recognition for his portrayal of sympathetic Miami drug dealer, Juan, in Moonlight. He won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and the film took home Best Picture after the massive, historic fiasco. He also became the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award.

The new dad (he welcomed daughter, Bari, with his wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, just days before the Oscars) explained to GQ how his passion for hip-hop and acting intersect. “I love hip-hop. It’s such an appendage for me,” he said last year. “It’s something that’s always shaped my experience out in the world. I always make mixtapes for every character that I’m playing. Sonically, that character has a soundtrack.”

 

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