Before Mahershala Ali was an Oscar-winning actor he was a...rapper.

Who would have imagined that the 43-year-old Moonlight star was once a musician under the moniker Prince Ali?

Prince Ali released two albums Corner Ensemble (2006), and Curb Side Service (2007), with Hieroglyphics Crew, an American underground hip-hop collective based in Oakland, California.


According to iTunes, Ali began his rapping career after earning his masters degree in acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The website says that he had a “B-boy like swagger with nuances of spirituality”.

Mahershala Ali’s Instagram page includes pictures of hip-hop collectives Juice Crew, Brand Nubian, graffiti and art that live within the hip-hop culture.

#SquadGoals #JuiceCrew #fbf

A post shared by Mahershala Ali (@mahershalaali) on

This was before the Netflix series House of Cards boosted his acting career. But that doesn’t mean Ali’s love for hip-hop has diminished at all. “I love hip-hop. It’s such an appendage for me,” he said in an interview with GQ.

“I think there’s so many people of colour, 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,” he says in his 2016 interview with XXL.


That’s not all. Ali was also an exceptional basketball player in his school.

Then known as Hershal Gilmore, he used his talent to get a basketball scholarship at St Mary’s College, California which could have meant the NBA. But he got into acting instead.