2009 is a big year for Dead Prez. They will be dropping their Pulse of The People mixtape with DJ Green Lantern on June 23rd and then a new album entitled Information Age at the end of the year. The duo is famously political, often controversial and definitely talented, as reconfirmed by a listen to Pulse of the People. GIANT recently caught up with M-1 and Stic.Man to talk about urban unrest, surviving the times and redefining their sound.
GIANT: Is the political climate right for Dead Prez?
M-1: I think any time any move is made that deepens our relationship with our system, it’s worth talking about, and that’s our job to do . I consider myself a component of revolutionary culture. That means not only am I gonna report to you the bad shit, I’m gonna report to you the good shit, the people’s shit, the embarrassing shit, the hot shit. So yeah, I think the current political landscape is perfect for what Dead Prez has to introduce. Why? Cuz we’re up against the same demons. We’re up against the same system.
GIANT: Is Dead Prez even more necessary in these times when pundits and media outlets are talking about how racism and injustice are waning or have disappeared?
Stic.Man: I don’t find people saying things are better. I think the TV says that but I don’t know any people personally who feel that they’re in a better place. When we debuted Let’s Get Free (2000), it wasn’t right or popular at that time. We don’t have to wait till it’s the right time. Our music being genuine has it’s own space.
M-1: At these times it’s very important for analysis. Why do I feel like there are kids closing off to what I’m saying right now because of the words I’m using or because I’m not talking about how big my rims are or how shiny my gun is. It’s relevant right now because money is tight no matter how you cut it, and these are issues that we’ve been confronting head on forever. I think in this time, the smartest people, the hoodest, the warriors, the Gs are gonna figure out the economic question. They’re not gonna sit back and be broke. The whole depression shit, where they were lining up and having tent forests in Central Park- that’s not Africans in the United States. I see people who are ready to resist- who want a revolution. Nobody wants to get rocked to sleep. Nobody wants to hear no bullshit.
GIANT: There was a recording of Dead Prez performing at SXSW at which yall announced the shootings of four police officers in Oakland, CA. Your announcement seemed somewhat celebratory and there were cheers in the crowd. In the “conscious” hip-hop scene there is plenty of revolutionary rhetoric, but not much action. Did you see the shooting of the Oakland Police officers as a revolutionary act?
Stic.Man: Rebellion happens in different ways and in different stages. The revolution is the process of people becoming conscious that we need power and then demanding it through organization. In instances where an unarmed brother (Oscar Grant) can get blasted for no reason laying down in hand cuffs in front of everyone, I think its progressive that people say “Hey Man our lives are not guaranteed and it’s the system that’s taking them.”
These events put people in a state of emergency and fear. They don’t know what’s gonna happen when they get stopped by the police. They could comply, lay down on their face in hand-cuffs and still get blown away. When you force people to live in those kinds of conditions, people are gonna react to survive. So I think the things you’ve seen in Oakland in the past, and the recent stuff, is evidence of that. People might not be politically developed enough to call themselves revolutionaries, but they are socially smart enough to say “God damnit Im gonna live. I’m not just gonna let someone take my life.” And I see that as a revolutionary development.
GIANT: How did u get hooked up with DJ Green Lantern?
We’ve been fans of what he do and respect his work. But we were recently on the Rock The Bells Tour, and we thought it was about that time to do something creative and get in the lab. We have an album called Information Age coming out later this year, but we wanted to put something out in the mean time to keep people interested and keep ourselves sharp.
GIANT: Was there a general approach or goal on Pulse of The People?
M-1: Just to tap into the pulse. That’s why we called it Pulse of the People. What’s happening? What’s going on? Hip hop is free, we didn’t want to over think it, just come with raw raps. It felt real good just to get in the studio for a weekend and bang out some hard ass raps on good ass beats.
GIANT: What can we expect from Information Age?
Stic.Man: Information Age is a totally different sound than we’ve ever worked with. Its uptempo, its new age, its hard, its soulful, its experimental and its about learning. The theme of the whole album is about learning. It’s a unique moment. The title Information Age is dealing with the age when you come into a knowledge of yourself. It’s a human thing Wherever you’re at, there is a point where you question certain traditions like- This ain’t fair and that ain’t right. And you just start to question the answers a little more.
And if you’re blessed to be around OGs and elders working in the struggle, then you can expand a lot. And that’s a human phenomenon- Knowledge of self. All the way back to our ancestors in Kemet, Egypt- “Know thyself” was the theme. All the way up now- street knowledge and the internet/information age of being able to google whatever question you can think of with the tap of a button.
But there is always something within something. So the Information Age is also dealing with getting “in formation,” getting organized, getting ready to move.
M-1: We actually have a song called “Soaking up Game” that Common is working on. And we literally want to be able to attack things from where Let’s Get Free was at, but from a 2010 point of view.
GIANT: Who can we expect to appear on Information Age?
M-1: MIA, AZ, Nas, Common, Erykah Badu, Kanye. These are our peers, it’s not nothing new. Its really people that can expand upon what we’re talking about and help us expand the market and enable us to talk to people.
Stic.Man: My son’s teacher’s son is a producer and he gave us some heat- the cure for crack. We’re working with Dirk Pate. He’s a classically trained musician, but his sound is like a mixture of rave, soul and pop with 808s. It’s a whole other sound that fit the technological vibe and experimental kind of thing we wanted to do.
GIANT: When will Information Age drop?
M-1: We’re trying to lock the distribution down and hopefully get it out by end of the year. We’re going to put it out regardless though.
GIANT: What’s each of your favorite song on Pulse of The People?
M-1: “Africa Hot”
Stic.Man: I like “Summertime”
GIANT: With the exception of “Summertime,” Pulse of the People seems pretty hard and militant like your previous efforts, will there be more diversity of topic on Information Age?
Stic.Man: It’s futuristic. We got a song called “No Way as the Way” about religion; a song called “Fast Food” about fast food; a song called “Lights Out” about energy sustainability; a song called “End of the World” about 2012; and a song called “Virtual Fantasy” about internet fucking. It’s creative!