Artist: dead prezTitle: dead prez: It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop (Film)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Robert Longfellow
Opening with a Martin Luther King quote (“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”), dead prez: It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop is a Starz InBlack Original film that showcases the renowned rap group’s blaringly loud, enlightening voice. The hour-long documentary offers an intimate look at dead prez (stic.man & M-1), one of the last righteous rap groups that really matter.
The film, which aired on Starz InBlack so catch the rerun, starts with a live rendition of dp’s remake of Black Rob’s Whoa into their own militant take, “That’s War”. But though live performances of their greatest anthems including “Hell Yeah” and “Hip-Hop” are interspersed throughout, this isn’t just another run of the mill concert film. It quickly delves into an analysis of everything from dead prez’s initial connection in Tallahassee, Florida, to their political and musical endeavors, to their motivation and impact on Hip-Hop; all via commentary from stic.man and M-1 themselves and heads like journalist Davey D, artist Ise Lyfe and Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Topics like dead prez’s popularity in the Bay Area (“California is critical to our movement,” says M-1), the sense of empowerment Hip-Hop can manifest, and the symmetry between the music biz and slavery are all interestingly broached as well.
More groups like dead prez are desperately needed to balance all the superficial rap superheroes of late. But it’s no easy road to walk. Says, stic.man, “We knew from the beginning that anytime you speak up on behalf for what’s going on in the community, they’re going to try to alienate you. That’s what the system do regardless.” It’s not like they’re not out there and dead prez: It’s Bigger That Hip-Hop gives other would be groups a blueprint to their success, since dead prez is at least one example of bucking the odds.
Though nothing is said or seen here that couldn’t have been gleamed from actually listening to dead prez all these years, the documentary is engaging enough for old fans and new fans alike. This time the revolution, or at least some instructions, is televised.
dead prez: It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop airs again on Wednesday, July 19th at 11:50pm on the Starz in Black channel.