Yasiin Bey x Louis Vuitton Honour Muhammad Ali

Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) has teamed up with Louis Vuitton and visual artist  Neils Shoe Meulman to deliver an absolutely breathtaking recreation of cultural icon Muhammad Ali‘s greatest poems.

Yasiin, in ever-charismatic form, weaves effortlessly across the boxing ring whilst Neils paints the words ‘Dream’ and ‘Word’ in striking calligraphy across the white canvas. 

The above video, aptly titled Dream, portrays Ali‘s iconic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ speech, which was recited by the world champion prior to his 1974 fight against George Foreman in Zaire; one of the most legendary clashes in sporting history.

Last night I had a dream, When we got to Africa,

We had a hell of a rumble.
First, I had to whip Tarzan’s behind,
For claiming to be King of the Jungle.
For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
I done murdered a rock, hospitalized a brick.
I’m so bad, I make medicine sick.
I’m so fast, I can run through a hurricane and don’t get wet.
When George Foreman sees me,
He’ll pay his debt.
I’ll drown a pool of water, and kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.

The second video, labelled Word, tackles Ali’s I Am The Greatest poem, which was delivered in the lead up to his world championship clash with Sonny Liston, which had been shaping up to be the biggest fight of his career. Not one to shy away from pressure, the man formerly known as Cassius Clay delivered one of the most beautifully constructed examples of trash talk ever conceived.

This is the legend of Cassius Clay,
The most beautiful fighter in the world today.
He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y,
of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speed-y.
The fistic world was dull and weary,
But with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary.
Then someone with color and someone with dash,
Brought fight fans are runnin’ with Cash.
This brash young boxer is something to see
And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y.
This kid fights great; he’s got speed and endurance,
But if you sign to fight him, increase your insurance.
This kid’s got a left; this kid’s got a right,
If he hit you once, you’re asleep for the night.
And as you lie on the floor while the ref counts ten,
You’ll pray that you won’t have to fight me again.
For I am the man this poem’s about,
The next champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt.
This I predict and I know the score,
I’ll be champ of the world in ’64.
When I say three, they’ll go in the third,
So don’t bet against me, I’m a man of my word.
He is the greatest! Yes!
I am the man this poem’s about,
I’ll be champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt.
Here I predict Mr. Liston’s dismemberment,
I’ll hit him so hard; he’ll wonder where October and November went.
When I say two, there’s never a third,
Standin against me is completely absurd.
When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse,
Don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is!

Overt braggadocio and extreme physicality aside, it is oft forgotten that Ali was an incredibly captivating and bright individual that could match wits with the most shrewd political and media figures.

His staunch moral beliefs helped aid the civil rights movement and solidified awareness of Islam within the American mainstream.

Truly a compelling human being, all the more deserving of such a tribute.


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