By Christopher Milan Thomas
Best known to fans as one half of the seminal rap group dead prez, M1 has been combining Hip-Hop with activism ever since he was expelled from Florida A&M University with his comrade Stic.man. Now, M1 is combining with a Jazz great to sponsor his solo debut album, Confidential.
Read, as M1 discusses his deal with Koch not unlike that of Sheek Louch or Jim Jones – only a better deal, says the MC. M1 also addresses criticism for his work with Jay-Z a few years ago, as well as some other questions marinating in fans’ minds. M1 invited AllHipHop.com into the studio with him to get a sneak peak at the album, and the vision behind it.
M1 claims he needs 100,000 supporters for this project. With a special look at some of the album highlights, perhaps you can join the masses behind M1’s movement to free up the thinking and go beyond the beat.
First, enjoy some audio treats from M1:
Click here to hear "Comrade Call."
Click here to hear a snippet of "The Beat."
Click here to hear a snippet of "Til We Get There."
Click here to hear "Early."
AllHipHop.com: Well, first things first, why have you decided to release a solo project?
M1: Well, let me just tell you how I got here. The label owner, Fabrizio Sotti, is a critically acclaimed guitarist in the Jazz game, who I met smoking a cigar in the 40/40 club. I came to find out [that] at 16 years old, he was playing with Miles Davis. So, I thought, “Hey, we might do a song or two,” and we ended up doing like, crazy songs. That’s how we found a union between myself and his sound. That’s how I ended up [signing with Sotti/Koch Records]. I call my album Confidential, because people know dead prez as a radical, say-anything kind of group. I don’t think that’s quite everything. I think people stick us in a hole and being stuck that hole is frustrating, especially when you want to make music that appeals [to a wide audience.]
AllHipHop.com: Within that, I want to play devil’s advocate. You have, at times, been labeled as a sell-out for working with commercial artists like Jay-Z…
M1: Wow! I’ve been labeled a sell-out?
AllHipHop.com: That’s what’s been said. Some people would say that it may be hypocritical to advocate socialism with, probably, the most capitalist artist of Hip-Hop! How would you respond to that contradiction?
M1: We gotta create dual power. The only way we’re gonna create power is to use capitalism to help us create our [socialist] system from below. As it stands now, we have capitalism [on top]. Me working with Jay-Z was beautiful for our movement…it says “Hey, these are motherf**kin’ revolutionaries!” People need to check their own motherf**kin’ selves. For real, if I’m wrong, come to me. School me so I can do it better. I took the first two turntables to Cuba and created a studio so they can have socialism [combined with Hip-Hop]. Whatever you [critics] say…I’m a put it real blunt: suck my d**k!
AllHipHop.com: So, if we change the system, what would happen? Would we be better off if we did eliminate these barriers?
M1: You are looking at people who have nothing to lose, so we have [to eliminate barriers]. I’m a victim of drugs, not only am I victim of an addiction to drugs, not me personally, [but] my mom is a 12 year veteran behind the prison system who just recently came home. Anything is better than this. When you’re at the bottom, what is there to lose? We could make mistakes at freedom, we could make mistakes at creating a new government. But we at least have to make those mistakes.
AllHipHop.com: How can people in poverty organize themselves? Why aren’t they organizing and whose fault is that?
M1: People aren’t organized because the general agenda of the world is disorganization. It’s not collective. Whose fault is that? I guess you could say, if [I’m] sitting in a jail and I don’t eat no food and I say, “F**k it. I know you’re feeding me poison.” So, after 20 days, I say, “Man, I need some water cause I gotta survive.” So, you start drinking water and the next thing you know, they got an apple. It’s grown with GMOs and all that other s**t and you say, “How bad could it be, it’s an apple?” This analogy I’m making to you is how we end up accepting this propaganda. I think it’s reluctant, but I’m a champion of any enemy of the system, which is a capitalist system, ya feel me? You got me talking on some real political s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, let’s shift gears a little bit. You still have the fire in you politically, but what makes this LP different from your group efforts?
M1: I think it’s different from my group efforts because I’m trying to get out of that box. I’m trying to connect with a different group of people who I believe are ready to turn the corner. It ain’t just me who wants to be free. Even the average man and woman walking around with Evisu’s and True Religion Jeans on want a piece of freedom. How do we go about it? That’s what this album is trying to address. [Our previous albums] didn’t quite communicate to that [audience]. In fact, it pigeon-holed me. This album right here is my effort to get out of that hole.
Now does it abandon what I believe? Hell no. Reason why? I’m f**kin’ with artists who people want to f**k with. I’m f**kin’ with Ghostface. I’m f**kin’ with Q-Tip. I’m f**ckin’ with Styles P. I’m f**kin’ with the whole music game who people think dead prez ain’t related to. But we are. And they know it. These people wanted to work with me more than I wanted to work with them….Hey, I know Jay-Z! I know Def Jam [is] supposed to be the most powerful thing in Hip-Hop! I ain’t trying to accept no slavery deal. The deal that we have [with Koch] enables me to see more money on my albums than any artist out here including Juelz Santana and all them other motherf**kas.
AllHipHop.com: So you plan on outselling your previous efforts or do you plan on just raising the bar creatively?
M1: You know, if I sell 100,000 records, I’ll make more money than I ever made selling 500,000 records off of Let’s Get Free. AllHipHop.com: Is that why everybody’s on Koch?
M1: [Laughs] Well, I can’t say everybody. They probably ain’t got my deal, I don’t know if they got my structure, but I got that structure, ya feel me? I plan to sell at least [100,000 units]. I don’t think that this label has ever sold more than [lowers voice] 200,000 units on the artist side. They’ve never broke through, no gold artists or nothing. I would love for that to happen, but I don’t really expect it. It’s not that I don’t think that it’s good enough to sell 500,000 copies, because it is. But, it is what it is. We’ll sell a hundred thousand records at a time and just get pimp.
Now for a taste of the album, Confidential hitting stores on March 21st…
“Comrades Call” featuring Styles P
M1: This was produced by Agallah, and features my man Styles P. He’s f**kin’ with all this street s**t, and that’s the reason why I done this tune with him, you know what I’m saying? He’s made statements before, like “I’m Black” and [he’s] still street. It took me a minute to do the joint ‘cause the joint I came at him with before was a very commercial song, but he ain’t want nothing to do with it; he wanted something very street. We ended up creating this on the comrade tip because “Comrade” to me is a statement of more than just my homeboys. “Comrade” is somebody who struggles with you in war. It’s a political term. I wanted to show people that we created that kind of relationship.
“Love You Can’t Borrow” featuring Q-Tip and Cassandra Wilson
M1: It’s like ‘Tip for ‘Tip’s sake, like, that’s OG right there to me. I just felt the vibe with him was perfect, so we just banged it out.
“The Beat” featuring Bang Double
M1: It’s basically a statement about what’s going on in music. People don’t even hear the words no more. All they hear is the beat so I made it to show that [the] beat itself drives the song but I wrote the lyrics about how, pretty much, you could say whatever the f**k you want to say as long as you got a beat. You could say, “F**k your mama,” and people will jam to it all day. If you not a dude that go into the club and you can’t appreciate this, then listen to it for the lyrics. That’s what it’s about, the lyrics. But if you are going to the club, then listen to it for the beat [laughs]. The lyrics are still clear: “You don’t hear nothin but the beat/Make you move your ass and move your feet to the beat/Damn don’t it sound so sweet/When it goes off, hit repeat to the beat/If it ain’t no justice, can’t be no peace, to the beat.”
“’Till We Get There” featuring K’Naan and Story James
M1: This is the one I did a video for, and the one I’m kinda going for like, commercial radio with. It’s a feel good song, pretty much, but I think it has a hard message. This is the one that I went for with Styles P and he turned me down, you know what I’m sayin’, but I think he made a mistake. I think this song is gonna be able to go a lot more places than that “Comrades” song will ever go. When I finally was able to get K’Naan to be a part of the song , it became an even greater song….it became an international song . He’s a refugee from Somalia [with] a phenomenal album. He learned to MC listening to Hip-Hop music.
I have many, many more tunes [but] that’s all I wanted to give to Koch who, I felt, needs to earn my respect as an artist and make good on what they’ve said they’re gonna do. So, with that being said, that’s what I have to offer and I think that’s enough potency for people who, I think, want something [and] it leaves enough on the palette. [ So if] you like it, you’ll want to hear something else. These other dudes is out here running with the ball, and I can’t let it happen no more.
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