Mos Def Arrested After Impromptu Performance Outside VMAs

Rapper didn't have permit to perform on flatbed truck outside Radio City Music Hall.

Mos Def was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct Thursday night after an unauthorized performance outside Radio City Music Hall during the Video Music Awards, police confirmed to MTV News. He was released early Friday (September 1) morning.

According to authorities, the rapper pulled up in front of the venue in a flatbed truck at around 10 p.m. for an impromptu show for the people gathered outside. An NYPD spokesperson said officers asked Mos Def and members of his entourage to shut down their operation due to crowd conditions and the overall safety of everyone involved.

(See John Norris’ report on Mos Def’s arrest here.)

It wasn’t clear whether Mos Def (real name: Dante Smith) ignored or refused the orders, the police spokesperson continued.

Sources close to the rapper said Mos Def was performing “Katrina Clap,” a freestyle indictment of the Bush administration’s slow response to last year’s hurricane victims in New Orleans.

After Mos Def arrived at Radio City Music Hall with his team in tow, the source said, officers on the scene approached the truck inquiring about a permit. When police were told a permit was in possession, officers let the one-song performance continue.

The source said additional officers then approached the rapper demanding the operation be shut down immediately. The order wasn’t communicated to Mos Def immediately, so the rapper didn’t end his performance right away, the source said. Police then began to arrest members of the rapper’s entourage, including his brother, according to the source. According to a statement released by Mos Def’s publicist on Friday, the rapper did not have a permit.

“Mos Def chose to use his voice to speak for those who are losing their own during this critical period of reconstruction,” the statement reads. “[He] was in the middle of performing and as soon as he was made aware of the police’s presence, he shut everything down. His staff and team were willing to comply as well but the police overreacted. Mos Def was not charged but given a summons for operating a sound-reproduction device without a permit, which he is going to contest.”

Members of Mos Def’s camp say they videotaped the incident and will publish it, possibly on a Web site, to shed light on their side of the confrontation.

The show might be over but the action isn’t! Check out all the backstage, uncensored action right here.

Check out all the latest news and pictures from the big show, and reports from previous VMAs, at our VMA news archive.

[This story was originally published at 2:03 a.m. ET on 09.01.2006]