dead prez: Politics As Usual

With firebrand flows on topics ranging from reparations to revolution, in a way, the performance persona of dead prez is similar to that of President Bush’s view of morality in the world. Everything is black and white. Up close and personal, however, M-1 and exhibit an eye for nuance. But don’t mistake the duo […]

With firebrand flows on topics ranging from reparations to revolution, in a way, the performance persona of dead prez is similar to that of President Bush’s view of morality in the world. Everything is black and white. Up close and personal, however, M-1 and exhibit an eye for nuance.

But don’t mistake the duo for John Kerry supporters. While the wealthy New Englander campaigns atop Capital Hill, the dp’s stay grounded in the streets of Brooklyn. With a their latest set RBG: revolutionary but gangsta in stores, AllHipHop sat down with dead prez as they presented their perspectives—in shades of red, black, and green. Last time we talked to you, which was in regards to your legal case, you mentioned you were working on your label, Boss Up (B.U.). What’s going on with that now? Let’s not get it twisted, it’s not a record company. Boss Up is a company that develops business in all different directions. Is the company a direct result of your waiting and your negotiations with Columbia Records? Um, well, you just asked a lot of questions right there. We believe in having yourself be as independent as you can. So we just strive to do that in general. And as far as Sony, definitely after they got drunk and dropped us off the label, in order to get us back, it’s certain things we stuck ‘em for.

M-1: We are in constant development of who dead prez is, you know what I’m saying? So Boss Up is a reflection of that and a result of that. We’re gonna produce many things, hopefully. Everything from DVDs to books; I already did a book. To plays, theatres, films— Thongs! [laughs]

M-1: Events, functions. Yeah, lingerie. All that. It’s real. What do you think about the NYPD hip-hop task force now that it’s out in the open? I’ll say this about it. I think we gotta start moving. If it’s a hip-hop task force, we need to have protocols on how we move for our own safety and security.

M-1: I think we need a hip-hop self-defense task force. We need a counter task force for that. It’s just not enough to know what they doing, we gotta be able to be counter active with it. Because they try to make it seem like [mocking in a feminine voice]“It’s always innocent, because, you know, we don’t want another 2Pac and Biggie.” Well that’s a g###### lie. And don’t throw that in my face and try to make it seem like some innocent bystander s**t. Hell nah. What are your thoughts on the protests in Brooklyn about bringing the Nets and the new arena into the area? Supposedly, it would displace a lot of people and then replace the homes with expensive housing, and small businesses would have to move, too.

M-1: I’m right there. I have a store right there where they want to put it at. I really need to know the demographics of that argument. Because right there in downtown Brooklyn, gentrification has been done. It used to be Fort Greene, now it’s called Clinton Hills, according to the white folks. And they probably got some other fancy name, too. “Little France,” or something, you know what I’m saying. Basically what we need to do is have community decide what commerce comes to the ‘hood. I’m not saying n##### is mad at the stadium, but it ain’t gonna come to the ‘hood. They gonna drive the crackers from Manhattan into that stadium and back out. For me, it’s fairly new to see you two in the whole Wendy Williams/ rumor mill. How do you feel when you hear dead prez is signing to the Roc? Or dead prez is signing to Bad Boy? Or Wendy Williams talking about you and Erykah Badu?

M-1: People will talk. The media is a muthaf*cka. B*tches like to run they f***in’ mouth! [everybody laughs] But with the message you put forward, what’s it like being attached to Jay-Z or Puff? People think of bling when they think of them, but not when they think of you. I don’t care. I don’t give a f*ck about that. I don’t separate myself from nobody off image. And I don’t unite with nobody just off a contract, you know what I’m saying? It’s way deeper than that. But I think it’s important for the game that people like Jay-Z and dp’s can work together (listen to their collaboration "Hell Yeah (Remix)." Way more than if we beefin’. And I know it’s a lot of sh*t I can learn from Jay-Z: how he on top of his business, his skill as an artist, his humility even with his success. You might can’t tell that from his lyrics, but as a man, he’s a pretty humble dude. That’s an O.G. in certain ways. And Puffy, too. They O.G.’s in this rap s**t, and I want to become an O.G.

M-1: [It’s not just] how we get affected by them, ‘cause they get affected by us, [too]. What if you heard a fan say “They doing a song with Jay, that’s not what they about?” Or if they said, “They rep Brooklyn and Jay’s moving the Nets to Brooklyn and it’s going to make a lot of people move?” I’ll be like, How the hell you gonna tell me what dp’s is? F**k outta here. [laughs] We gonna do this, how we gonna do this. And a lot of people be Internet head muthaf*ckas just making up s**t. It ain’t from knowing us. You mentioned the Internet, and I wanted to ask you about Internet protests. Activism is being active, so isn’t sitting behind your computer being passive?

M-1: I gotta disagree with you. The reason why I say that is because it depends what it’s for and it depends on the resulting action. Truthfully, what it really boils down to is— [lowers voice] when a n#### change they mind, then they body will follow. What you do to get somebody to change they mind may be different from what Fred Hampton did. Who’s to say that the Internet can’t be an effective way of changing somebody’s mind? Now if you saying it ain’t never produce no action, I agree with you. I agree with your points, but how effective is the Internet when people don’t even see the faces of a movement? Look at how effective it is when you tie a rag around your face and handle your business. Don’t nobody know who did it. The Black Liberation Army soldiers, a lot of people don’t know who did it. But the police felt it. Don’t nobody know who got Assata (Shakur) out of prison, but she in Cuba chillin’, beautiful as hell.

M-1: But I feel what you saying, because it comes from a Liberal place in the world that allows armchair revolutionaries. But I really want to open you up to the type of—because I’m not f###### with that [the Internet] no way—revolutionaries that we need, (because) they gonna have to utilize whatever they got. M1, you mentioned Fred Hampton and I know a couple of years back you posed as him for a VIBE photo shoot. But how do you feel when you see Naomi Campbell dressed up as Angela Davis in a Rocawear ad? And you see a Black Power image used for commerce? I wanna say, it’s different ways you can look at sh*t. Sometimes I be in the middle. Because the obvious thing to say is, Rocafella ain’t ‘bout nothing positive, they don’t got the right to use that. But on the other hand, you could say, Rocawear, they don’t necessarily promote certain things and they taking the opportunity to do that. I respect both of those perspectives. I ain’t saying Rocawear did that to affect our community, but it can have that affect.

M-1: I think it’s a way to hold people to task. It’s almost like the red, black and green wristbands, you know what I’m saying? Like, those things are for sale. They cost money. And people are buying them. And somebody’s getting paid. My point being, it allows people a way for me to engage you in the streets and say, Do you know what the f*ck that’s about? And you build off that. Do you think there’s a certain poetic justice now that the Feds are going after people like Martha Stewart and the Enron executives? Or is that temporary?

M-1: They are in full throttle crisis. And they can’t help it. The s### is leaking out the edges. They don’t want us to see this. S**t is just crazy. The crevices are becoming more divided for the ruling classes. ‘Cause she is the owner; she’s one of the owners of this s**t, invested in this corporation called America. Martha Stewart is one of the pillars of that community. Her being able to pull her stocks out almost was like a symbolic move of her divestment from a certain kind of the economy. Like, I’m playing this side instead of that side. And muthaf*ckas was mad at that. They corporate crooks, but it’s just a symbol of a system that’s failing. A weak system. That’s all it is. And not no poetic justice nothing. Instead of looking at it as poetry, look at it as politics. Martha Stewart, all that’s political. R. Kelly is political. Michael Jackson, g###### political. That’s real. And I think that’s the reality of the whole s###. A sign of the times.