Dead Prez: Prezzing Matters!

How are things going as of right now?

Things are going good right now, I can’t really complain, you know? Nothing really bad going on and that’s a good thing.

Great, M1…what made you go into music?

Everything, it’s something I heard, vibrations from my mothers’ womb you know… I had heard music from when I was a kid and it made me want to express myself. Later on, you see a lot of messed up stuff happen in the world, within our neighborhoods and even within our own government. It was a way for me to get my voice out, to get the exposure that we deserve, we need to make people aware that there’re political prisoners worldwide who need to be set free, you know what I’m saying?

I do, so than I got to ask you… you and Sticman are the subjects of the Starz network Dead Prez: Bigger than Hip/Hop…are you bigger than Hip/Hop?

We’re bigger than hip/hop in that our message is global, when we rap we’re talking to people from all around the world; we want to wake people up and shake things up. That’s what this concert in San Francisco was all about, we play great music but there’s something behind it, we’re raising issues within our music; political prisoners, refuges, black-owned businesses, the power of corporations over countries like Africa and elsewhere. Starz just gave people the chance to see one part-concert/one part-documentary, Starz was really aware that just aren’t a lot of groups out there with anything really to say, not like we do, so we’ll be looking forward to doing more work with them in the future.

You mention other groups; who would be some examples of groups from the past that you feel influenced you?

In terms of what? Are you talking in terms of my musical influences or my politics?

Well’ both really, I’m pretty aware that musically at least, you’ve been compared to groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A. But I guess that would be because that’s probably more of a corporate PR comparison. Politically, I’ve read that you’ve followed the Black Panther party doctrine and are considered radical… is that too far from the truth? (Editing note…this portion of the question is not supported in the following text…but answered by another question later in the interview – therefore this part of your question can be alternatively added to your intro.)

Basically, yeah’ I mean we get compared to Public Enemy and N.W.A. but N.W.A. was all ready huge when they came out, they were all ready selling millions of records from the beginning, they were a commercial success first and foremost and it gave them a platform on which to speak out a bit. Public Enemy is probably the better comparison for us, but only as far as generally speaking, they had a way different social commentary and they were a different time period entirely.

So you’re saying that you consider yourselves to be more of an underground hit like P.E. and over time has crossed over to the general public now?

No, not at all… I never said that, we’ve sold millions of albums too; all over the world…you know you can still be a commercial success and still have a message too. Chuck D spent time talking about all kinds of issues; slavery from the past and the present, he made people aware that black America is still in the throes of slavery to corporations. Corporations that rape and pillage black neighborhoods…making them ghettos in the process… he attacked corporate America while also being part of it and making money from it to further our own causes. In that way then yeah, P.E. was definitely an influence. But’ I’ve worked with everyone from Jay-Z to the Outlawz and everyone in between and from working alongside of someone like Jay you can tell that “yes’ you can sell millions of rap records without trying to be commercial”. You can put out a great album or song that sells millions and still not compromise your artistic vision. With Dead Prez, we tend to get pigeon holed with terms like; radical or extreme and everyone tries to act like we don’t matter outside of politics, but we do, as they all know. My solo album “Confidential” is a just one way for us to break out of that mold and show people that while we’re artists first, we can still tackle other subject matter. All while using the money base from album sales, as a way to push our messages out to everyone.

You also did a song on “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” album titled “Hip Hop” how’d that come about? It seems an odd choice for someone who’s considered so very politically charged musically?

Dave and I have been friends for years since like’ 1997 right after he just got done doing the movie “HalfBaked”. One day in late 2004, Dave just called me up and asked if we wanted to come to a little block party he was throwing over in Brooklyn, New York. We showed up at the Block Party and had the song ready and everyone else was there all ready, including Lauryn Hill and the Fugees! It’s like “wow’ what an event that the film and then the soundtrack turned out to be.” I know Dave was actually instrumental in having the film dedicated to J Dilla before the film came out and before Dave actually left the show.

As a close personal friend of Dave’s… what’re your thoughts on Dave leaving “The Dave Chappelle Show” so suddenly? What do you think were his real reasons for leaving?

I think what he did was a courageous act on his part, they were putting a lot of pressure on him to do things a certain way and from what I’ve heard he just didn’t want to go through with it. Dave’s show was the most popular show ever on the Comedy Channel and the top brass saw that and they had a formula for instant success. Dave kind of felt like they were pressuring him to succeed and he was getting it from all angles to kind of wring every last dollar from both him and the show. They got a little crazed in the top offices and the furor over Dave’s show spooked Dave quite a bit. Especially, when they’re coming down to the set, standing around to check on the taping of every episode he’s doing minute by minute. I think Dave did get a little paranoid over the whole thing; the growth, the furor and the immense pressure to see what Dave was gonna’ do next and Dave said, “That’s it I’m done” and he just walked away from it all. So yeah’ I think it was an enormously courageous act on his part to just say “that’s it I’m leaving it all behind” and walk away. I’ve been friends with Dave for years now and I support his decision all the way and I always enjoy the opportunity to work with him again.

So then, getting back to politics, politically where do you stand…are you a Democrat or a Republican when you vote?

Neither, I mean, I think it would be nice if there were more than just two political parties from which to choose from first of all. I’m an African Nationalist first and foremost, Africa as a country needs to make all of its people aware that Africa is a country that always gets split up by multinational corporations, that are always looking to rape and pillage her natural resources. But I’m a Socialist politically… I believe that there needs to be a more even playing field that benefits everyone and not just a select few. People tend to think that we’re anti-white, but we’re not, everyone comes to see us on tour and buys our albums. The buying public is made up of everyone and I’ve been aware of that for some time, especially out on tour, where you just talk to people at the shows and you just know now, that we’re all part of the struggle to get there together.

Yeah’ but that doesn’t really answer my question, in the last national election who did you vote for?

I assume you’re talking about the last presidential election, I didn’t think that either one of them accurately represented my beliefs Bush or Kerry, or that they even would represent my beliefs or actually fight for anyone of the causes that I believe, needs to be addressed here in America.

So, you’re saying that you didn’t take advantage of your god given right under the Constitution to vote and speak your mind? You lived in Florida, so I assume you’re aware of the chads episode during Bush’s first election, don’t you think that advocating not voting, only exemplifies the very problems that you’re actively talking about? (Editing note…this comment was not ever addressed in the interview so it can be either edited out or added in your own comments in your intro.)

No, I never said for anybody to not vote, I’m only speaking for myself, you asked if I voted and no, I didn’t vote, but that’s a personal decision that I’m making for myself. I’m not advocating that anyone else do the same thing, if they don’t want to vote, then they should be speaking out in other ways, attend your conferences, develop your own ideas and decide what you think works for you politically and above all, be aware of how the corporate bureaucracy tries to influence your decision making process. Hip Hop is a power and it can grow into a revolution for real change. Politically, I don’t follow any one way of thinking or any one political group… I use my music to get my point across to the masses out there, through exposure we can become aware and open up people’s eyes to what’s going on around the whole world.

Anyone who is truly aware of me knows that I’m completely and totally politically active in other ways. I believe in the elements of the Black Panther party that are a way for swift revolutionary change. I’ve been part of the Uhuru movement and I believe that’s a way for me to take and get my messages out there for everyone to see. I spent most of my time on colleges and universities in an effort to further push and get power into the hands of the people who are instrumental in making change happen; college students…all college students black, white, brown, whatever, we’re all people who are operating within the lower end of a three-class system. Just because I don’t vote, I don’t think anybody will look up and say that now, “I’m not going to vote, because M1 didn’t.”

Yeah’ but don’t you think that by not voting you become an example or a symbol of political apathy? You could be considered a role model by young people who might say… why bother to vote than? Now’ you lived in Florida… so, do you think it was the lack of voting interest during that first election that led to George Bush being voted in as president in the first place?

No, I never said for people to not vote and I’m not an example of political apathy, I just personally believe that the politicians that are appointed to represent us don’t do so accurately, particularly in African-American neighborhoods and I know that I’m not the only one who feels that way. (Note…I broke up the responses in the previous exchange as well as this one because it felt a bit repetitive…It would be more powerful to include one of the exchanges in your intro – kind of like a window into the interview…set the reader up for what is about to happen.)

As far as Florida is concerned, I think what happened there is that people from all over, not just whites or African-Americans or Latinos, got together as a whole and just felt disenfranchised with the whole system and didn’t vote because neither party really represented anyone’s views, that’s why that first election was so close down here. I see that as an example that we need not one or two but how about four or five political parties all running for political office. That’s the kind of revolutionary change that I’m talking about here, what I personally believe in. We should have five political parties running simultaneously and not just have to choose between either a Republican, Democrat, even a Green party member, who might actually take a Democratic vote away. The Constitution becomes moribund then and black people have known this for a long time. Now we need to have other party members on our local and state ballots and just you know, make it a real election for once.

Yeah’ but in the meantime, we got a president who wasn’t even voted into office and down in Florida, where his brother Jeb Bush lives and is the current governor, suddenly becomes the swing state for him. As a resident of Florida during that time period…what’s your thoughts on the matter?

Well yeah’ he stole that election, sure’ there’s a lot of black folks and Latinos who didn’t get to vote and speak their mind in that way, by just being turned away from the polls. But, if your asking me if Jeb Bush is corrupt, hell yeah’ he’s corrupt, but not anymore so than, the other ten or twenty old, ultra-rich, white guys who run every southern state down here. Jeb Bush in Florida is no more corrupt a governor, than the governor of Alabama or Mississippi or anywhere else down here. (Note…again I feel like the Florida issue has been explored but I like what happened in this exchange…consensus is to keep it in but can you include some of this sentiment in your intro as well…)

George Bush is a liar and he’s been lying to the American public since he first came into power. He’s lied about everything from the war in Iraq, to the reasons why we’re even fighting, to our economy and now they’re lying to us about how and when we’re going to leave there. Does that make me want to not vote “no,” it makes me want to change the system, so that I can and that’s what we’re striving to do, in Malcolm’s words “by any means necessary.” (This shows M1’s point of view quite clearly (excellent!)…)

Good point, on a calmer note, you have a new album due out soon and then Sticman and you have a collaboration coming out, what can you tell me about that, what’s the best song on your album? What else in terms of your first singles, touring, etc. for them?

Yes, I have my own solo album coming out “Confidential” by the time you read this it will be out, this is going to be my own project and I won’t be leaving Dead Prez. This was just some thing that I had on my mind and it’s not exactly what you’d expect from Dead Prez and that’s exactly why I did it. Musically, it varies as an album, you won’t just hear hip/hop on there, I have elements of everybody from Etta James to Marvin Gaye on some songs, while others have the gritty, street feel that we’ve been known to drop into every now and again. It all has a plan to it and it’s a project that’s very personal to me and that’s one of the reasons it’s called “Confidential”. As far as best song on the album, I wouldn’t necessarily call this my best song but my favorite one at this time is “Till We Get There” with K’naan and Story James, which will also be the first single off of the album. As Dead Prez, we have our mixtape “Can’t Sell Dope Forever” with the Outlawz, along with a “Confidential” DVD right behind it, out on the shelves July 25th 2006. The first single off of that album tentatively is called “1 Nation” with my partner in Dead Prez, Sticman producing. As far as touring goes we’ll be out touring in the summer, so look for us out on tour. I know Sticman has a book out “The Art of Emceeing” and he’s planning a solo album. Besides doing the Starz “It’s Bigger than Hip/Hop: Dead Prez documentary, which came out June 9th 2006, we were also just presented with a Revolution Award, which I hosted.

Great, now I was just on a website that I think is yours, is that address correct?

No, that’s actually our old web address when we were part of another record company. To get up to the minute stuff on Dead Prez, go to our real, official, website

Great, anything that you want to say to your millions of fans out there?

Just to be aware, African Americans need to be aware of the power of our mothers, sisters and daughters, they hold the power and are the key to our future and we need to be aware of that. It’s our mothers who will keep the kids off of the streets and away from drugs that corrupt our families and our neighborhoods. Treat all black women within your family with the beauty and respect they deserve and from that, will come the source of black pride within the family and that can go on for years to come, from generation to generation. We also got to be aware that there are political prisoners worldwide being held down and in jail, if only because their viewpoints differ from the current fascist regimes. We need to free all political prisoners worldwide…not just one, keep fighting the good fight and I’ll see you in the whirlwind.

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