RBG fo lyfe.. (Dun kno!)
(Not the newest interview, but hopefully the message is still so fresh n' so clean. 8) )
Revolutionary But Gangsta
Dead Prez: The Revolution
Wednesday - March 24, 2004
Albert McCluster III
Dead prez have been known for their political consciousness since their 1997 mixtape release of the track "Food Clothes and Shelter". Having received the torch passed on by such radical Hip Hop groups as Public Enemy and X-Clan...the duo of M-1 and stic are now set to release their new long awaited album, "RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta".
M-1 aka Lavon Alfred was born in 1973 in Jamaica, West Indies and stic.man aka Clayton Gavin was born in 1975, in Shadeville, Florida. M-1,who has since adopted the African name Mutulu Olugbala, grew up in Brooklyn's Albany housing projects. He was kicked out of Erasmus Hall high school for delinquent behavior then he temporarily relocated to North Carolina to complete his diploma...but afterwards returned to New York where he supported himself by selling crack.
stic had witnessed the effects of the crack on his own life growing up in Florida and it inspired him to become involved with Tallahassee's Black Survival Movement in Florida.
dead prez differs from many rap groups in that they came to activism first and music second
Conceiving music less as a craft and more as a platform for challenging racism and economic oppression, the duo garnered considerable critical praise with an appearance on the 1997 Loud's Set Up tape, "Food, Clothes, and Shelter" and a 12-inch single, "Police State". Their sound was defined laying an ominous rhythm track underneath their revolutionary analyses.
In 2000, dead prez released the full-length album, "Let's Get Free", the remix was done by Kanye West. Critics loved the LP, especially the track "It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop" which welded their critiques of capitalist society to a southern jeep beat that was outfitted to deliver them to the masses.
Tracks like "Mind Sex" and "Be Healthy" found them expanding their philosophical as well as their sonic repertoire, employing Latin guitar and spoken word interludes to promote an alternative lifestyle. dead prez even adopted a cautionary, if not counter-revolutionary tone on the song "Animal In Man", a rap adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm.
Since they have been involved in the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement in New York and distributing the Burning Spear newspaper on subway trains. Both are avid martial artists and have since parted company with Loud Records.
A licensing dispute with Loud in early 2001 meant they were forced to adopt the "DPZ" name for their second full-length recording, "Turn Off The Radio: The Mixtape Volume 1." They have participated in the 2003 Lyricist Lounge tour with Killer Mike and the Get Free Or Die Tryin' tour with Erykah Badu.
As we opened the interview, I found that both of these young men were
serious about their craft and ideology. Uncompromising in their
views...they communicate with knowledge and intensity that makes you want to hear what they have to say.
"America...that's spelled A-M-E-R-I-KKK-A, is an invisible war zone," says stic "The battles are being fought day to day across the ghettos and urban centers. No one is really free here. I don't feel free. I'm not American. And I know I'm not free as a human being. Freedom as in having political control of your own life and that doesn't exist in the US. Not for the poor at least."
M-1 chimes in, "And through capitalism, the state...based in the capitalist U.S. and upheld by the world's wealthy 2%...dominate the rest of world. And they use the police and the government to maintain that power. A lot of people think we are racist or just out for black people. But this isn't a race issue..our goal is to instill a revolutionary consciousness in the oppressed masses so they can direct their frustrations at overthrowing the system, instead of destroying themselves. Once the corrupt system is gone, we can put in place one opposite of the old, where sharing and cooperation is the law. And the power is in the hands of the people."
But wouldn't that be socialism?
"I don't care what you call it, I'm talking about living fair," responds M-1. "We don't have to call it socialism. I don't even like speaking English, because I was robbed of my ability to have my own language. Basically the current system doesn't work for everyone...so, the majority suffers while the few profit...the needs of the few have outweighed the needs of the many in the world today."
Back in the early '70's Gil Scot Heron released the now legendary Black Panther anthem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" it's lyrics are the basis of dead prez's belief.
"A revolution is not an event...it's not something that just happens." says stic "We aren't looking for heaven on earth...but, it can be close. It could happen within the next ten years that everything can change."
"That is not our total goal, that a revolution happen in our lifetime, it's just that it happens sometime," M-1 clarifies. Both young men have already experienced revolutions on a personal level. As teens they both dealt drugs, or as they put it, "participated in the United States sponsored and created drug economy."
M-1, during one six-month stretch, tallied up four or five two-week jail terms for drugs, fighting, and breaking a car window. Everyone he met was either involved in drugs or knew someone who was. The battlefield was littered with ex-cons or cons-to-be and the generals were the ones with the most confidence, the ones who proudly shot you for your new shoes or a wrong look.
"It was war in Brooklyn...we call it Brooknam," M-1 says. "I was always on alert...looking over my shoulder for that bullet with my name on it. I went to school everyday..but, couldn't learn anything...kids got shot for their coats in the winter and shoes in the spring. Drug dealers even shot my high school principal."
With the new album, "RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta", the duo appears as serious about their music as their activism. "We just got finished shooting the video for the song "Pimp The System"...to define that," says M-1 "It's basically a jack move on the government...the community and poverty...The government has managed to outsource poverty worldwide. The premise of the video is a revolutionary jack move, it's about building up and standing up just tellin the fuckin truth is controversial."
"'RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta' is dead prez bringing the elements together." says stic "If you're in the system, you're one with streets and vice versa...we as people got to stand up where we're at. It's alot of pain and hope on this album...we don't want people to think we are criminal
gangsters...We're street hustlas...controlling our destinies and
When asked about their current relationship with their label...M-1 repsonds positively but, pessimistically. "Label relationship...the label is like a plantation and we are the rebel slaves. That's just the truth. Just cause we here talking to you don't mean shit...Everything that a label does for an artist has to do with money...we need an income...But, we still want to get our message across to the listener, you know? We are about knowledge first and profit second...unfornately the label isn't...it's just the truth."
What is the media's role? With the globalization and commercialization of Hip Hop...can dead prez compete in a world of P-Diddy, Eminem and 50 Cent?
"Hip hop is about to be undermined by a new system of production," says stic "It's back in the streets now and the major labels are having to fight more and more for their spoils...the people don't want to pay $17 for a cd no more...it's now about the people. It's the 'bottom up' philosophy We could give a fuck less about the profit and the bullshit. 'Pimp The System'...that's what we need to do. The world is fucked up enough...Bush, Iraq, Terrorism, Racism and hatred...It's the same as it ever was...there's a war going on and it's not terrorists who are the targets..it's the poor and people of color in the end that suffer and pay."
"Ours is to change it in our minds and then in our actions...that's all you can do." , says M-1
dead prez "RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta" is scheduled for US release on March 30. M-1 & stic are also releasing a book of their lyrics later this year called "The Book Of Life".