have anxiously awaited an album release from internationally acclaimed rap duo,
dead prez, for several, painful months. While it has already garnered stellar
reviews sources at Columbia Records have revealed (off the record) that dead
prez was no longer on its payroll. The group was allegedly dropped according
to unofficial reports as a result of what was deemed as poor projection of
politically charged group’s debut Let’s Get Free, moved approximately
300,000 copies in the United States. Execs were apparently concerned about the
upcoming project, despite already being completed.
an interview prior to the disappointing, but not surprising news, M-1 likens
industry life to plantation life and explains why they “stic” with
AllHipHop.com: when you and stic first started looking for a deal who did you
reach out to and what was your experience?
M-1: We had a few friends that gave us some names and numbers because in the
beginning we didn’t know all the names and titles of those people at the
labels. Then we started calling people and going up in the offices like you
need to see us. We approached Russell a few times up in the elevator and his
words to us were. ‘ Y’all need to stop cursing so much.’ Cause
he knew he knew we was cursing at the government. He could get with DMX but
he couldn’t get with us cause he knew our intentions were different. We
tried to get with this lady at Columbia but at the time she took a little too
long so we went to Steve Rifkin’s office at Loud Records. They had a good
rep in the streets.
AllHipHop: What was your experience with Loud?
M-1: We were on Loud for 6 years. Four of those years were spent without releasing
our first album, Let’s Get Free even though it was ready to go. We saw
Big Pun come, we saw Wu-Tang come with albums, we saw a lot happen while we
was just sittin. Then, Loud started going through a lot of changes with its
distributors we were caught in the middle. Every time they switched distributors,
our release date was pushed back. Because once the distribution changed, the
partners changed and the company began a new relationship in dealing with the
money exchange. Those distributors were the beneficiaries who bankrolled what
would happen to Loud Records, the backers. How the checks got cut, new deadlines
were set, everything would change each time. That’s why it took four years
until we finally saw Sony.
AllHipHop: What happened when Loud finally folded?
M-1: Once Loud became unable to keep up with Sony’s high standard to put
out the kind of records that it sells for the 40 million dollar per year entity
that it is. I mean you really have to do a lot of platinum to keep up with that
and Loud Records was not a powerhouse platinum label like a Def Jam. For the
most part their artists had a cult following but they needed that attention
paid but they wanted Mariah Careys. Eventually, that worked to the detriment
of Loud because eventually their departments became swallowed up as they couldn’t
produce. Loud itself fell into Sony companies, dissolved it and sold it to different
parts. That’s how we ended up on Columbia.
AllHipHop: Was that your choice? Did you have any say so?
M-1: Oh hell no. Hell no. I would have been free. We tried to run from the plantation.
We saw the plantation was burning down we was trying to escape in the middle
of the night. Ol’ dude was standing in the corner and snatched us up when
we were trying to sneak into the woods and took us to the next plantation.
AllHipHop: same shit different day, huh?
M-1: That’s my total analogy. For anybody that can’t understand that
I don’t know how to get it through any clearer than that. We were sold
like slaves in the middle of the night
AllHipHop: What led to the decision to put out the mixtape you guys released?
M-1: In a good way that experience of being bought and sold and feeling like
a slave led us to think of ways to do for self on our own. That’s when
we produced the mixtape, Turn off the Radio Volume 1. There was a serious lack
of understanding and vision on the part of people just paid to do a job in the
industry. We could have used some great guerilla tactics promotion and marketing
tactics to do a lot more for what I think dead prez needed. But scared money
don’t make money. Bossman was too scared to put his money where his mouth
was and we ended up making some great records that never came out. Some of them
were used on the mixtape. We did some songs with the Marleys, Damon, Julian
and Steven. We made relationships with people like Sol Slim from the New Orleans
camp. We did some things with Beatnuts, our crew, Tahir, Larry Blackman from
Cameo but hey that’s what Turn Off the Radio ended up becoming. We were
able to make some statements because a lot of times people look for rap that
makes sense but without correct political education you can’t make sense
of all this. So, that album helped us to make statements about Iraq and other
issues, when there really were no avenues on the radio or anywhere else to do
AllHipHop: How do you think current attacks on civil liberties like the Patriot
Act affect hip hop and do you feel there are efforts made to suppress political
voices in hip hop?
M-1: Yes. There has to be. Music is the primary tool by the voiceless used to
get our culture. With access to it, bourgeois media will suppress our voices,
BET, MTV Whatever. They will govern that to make sure nothing gets through
that could impede the steady propaganda that they feed us. We are clear on that.
They got the Patriot Acts 2 and 3 on its way. So if they are thinking that far
ahead we need to be thinking that far ahead.
AllHipHop: Is it your agenda to expose or prove that? M-1: I don’t have
to expose it. People know it for themselves.
AllHipHop: Do you really think people know it?
M-1: People do. It’s popular now to question the government more than ever.
The majority of people are not with the US government.
AllHipHop: If people know it, why continue to support the criminality of black
M-1: I think there is a difference in do people think the system is broken and
what people will do to make money. For some people just because they know the
system is broken doesn’t mean well let’s fix the problem. It means
well what that gotta do with me.
AllHipHop: So what do you think will happen to hip hop as a result of that mentality?
M-1: The same thing that’s going to happen to Black people as a result
of that mentality. Hip hop is a microcosm of the real world. It is not the real
world. So whatever would happen to Black people, Latino people the people who
really know are suffering still. I’m not talking about the ‘burbs
or those people who ran out and bought Eminem’s album. Even though 50 ain’t
selling crack on the streets he’s selling crack on his raps. We suffering
AllHipHop: How can you explain the overwhelming support you have among white
youths in contrast to the Black/Latino youths you make your music for in the
M-1: We are in the interest of building power that’s all. Power is the
main focus. It doesn’t matter who unites with it. Ever body must unite
with it but we gon’ make sure that our people unite with it. There is no
diversion. I’m not thrown off by it. I see it and I understand the phenomenon.
Those middle class kids have an affinity for this working class sentiment. It
makes sense, it answers all the questions they need to hear. It is the reason
why they are going to school. When they see it in the raw, they have to unite.
AllHipHop: Yeah but when its time to pick a side who’s side will they pick?
M-1: Well that remains to be seen. None of this is based in trust. I have no
trust in white people but why should I just by the way we have been betrayed.
There has to be a relationship built by solid real work. Them shouting I’m
an African at our shows just provides a basis on which to confront them. Oh
yeah, you willing for us to be free? How far are you willing to go? If you can
not be held accountable and organize, to hell with you coming to my concerts
saying I’m an African. But that’s the job of the movement is now I
got you what you gonna do now. I saw you move to a side, I saw you pick it now
what are you gonna do now? Call ‘ em on the question and that way we can
clear up the bullshit. Believe me I don’t expect them kids in Portland
and Seattle and especially in those “hip hop” backpackin circuits
to do much. But when you hear this sentiment right here believe me its no hate.
It is just irony. It’s irony that this music we so intended for our community
went to the sons and daughters of the mutha fuckas we sold the shit. The people
who owned the masters just sold the shit to they cousins and them over in Middle
America with soccer moms and all that. When we wanted to sell it in our hoods
but that wasn’t their concentration. It’s just so ironic.
AllHipHop: Have you like many artists have had the experience of people and
friends approaching you hoping you could help them get on who weren’t aware
of your situation?
M-1: Oh yeah. People don’t understand our relationships and our resources.
It’s almost like saying just because you work somewhere you can get somebody
a job. It’s not true. If that were the case your whole family would be
working. I’m not in a position to do much if anything for anybody when
it comes to that but people don’t understand.
AllHipHop: Why make the decision to be your own management?
M-1: We could probably benefit from having someone to manage us but we don’t
do commercials and shit like that. We don’t do ads for nobody unless they
going to pay for the hood. We tried working with different people a few times
and it never worked out so we just decided to do it ourselves and we’d
have a lot less headaches. It’s a lot to deal with sometimes but we’d
rather that than deal with somebody who doesn’t understand our vision trying
to get us to do soda commercials.
AllHipHop: how frustrating is it to deal with the labels at this level?
M-1: Some times I sit back and I .I hate them. But I have to do it. I think
it’s something in my heart. In the middle of the night last night I woke
up to write at 2 in the morning. That’s why I have to do it. I have to
get it out. I have to say what’s in me. I don’t care if anybody ever
hears it ever. But there’s something in me that says, ‘Yo you gotta
explain this or somebody gotta explain it to me.
AllHipHop: Do you get frustrated with the masses?
M-1: You gotta have faith. One thing you can’t lose is faith in the masses.
What humbles me is we are only as strong as our weakest link no matter what.
I don’t care how strong the rest of this whole shit is. And the people
have all the answers. They will pull it out on you and show you what you been
doing wrong the whole time but you gotta have faith.