Review: Dead Prez (@STICRBG) (@M1deadprez) Live @TheJazzCafe !

Dead Prez Bring Politics to the Party

Jazz Café, 29th October 2014

With Dead Prez moments away from enter­ing the stage, DJ Mike­Flo cleansed the audience’s pal­let with Dami­an Marley’s sombre Book of Life mix­ing into the tri­umphant Max Romeo piece ‘Chase the Dev­il’, known now for the ‘Luci­fer, Son of the Morn­ing’ sample. Mar­tin Luth­er King’s ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud Speech’ blared around the Jazz Café sound­sys­tem cres­cendo­ing into the thun­der­ing 808 bass of ‘Mal­colm, Gar­vey, Huey.’ Trap Music has nev­er been this rad­ic­al.

Fly­ing straight into the strug­gling hustler’s opus ‘Hell Yeah’ Stic.Man and M1 ran the stage harder than the former’s gym workouts for the next ninety minutes, blast­ing through their dis­co­graphy of street mix­tapes and major label stu­dio albums. The duo’s most hon­oured num­ber ‘Hip-Hop,’ nearly fif­teen years after release still had every­body boun­cing in uni­son, bass threat­en­ing to tear the ven­ue from its found­a­tions.

There’s a refresh­ing ubi­quity to Dead Prez’s mes­sage of raging against colo­ni­al­ism, oppres­sion and racism. And whilst the live shows aren’t the place to for­ward macro solu­tions, their every-day self-help goals such as healthy eat­ing, exer­cise, mar­tial arts, read­ing and train­ing offer a stepped plan out of sub­jug­a­tion. Stic.Man’s ode to gym work ’50 in a Clip’ mas­ter­fully per­formed over ‘Pound Cake Instru­ment­al’ sets the RBG tao apart from the count­less hordes of insig­ni­fic­ant sound-alikes who have flogged the Drake beat to death. A happy-go-lucky, cheery camp-fire sing-a-long is set to ‘Dis­cip­line’ where the chor­us proudly declared ‘Dis­cip­line makes things easi­er, organ­ize your life.’ Pre­ced­ing this song was the cut-short sapi­o­sexu­al anthem ‘Mind Sex’, hint­ing that Dead Prez value regi­men above car­nal pur­suits in their hier­archy of needs.

Around 60% of the Lon­don crowd could relate to Stic.Man’s ‘Run­away Slave’ sen­ti­ments of put­ting blades to slavemaster’s throats. Dead Prez made no apo­logy for the song’s inten­ded audi­ence. How­ever, in a thinly veiled mes­sage to the white par­ti­cipants in the crowd, an inclus­ive call-to-action against the oppress­ive struc­tures of cap­it­al­ism encour­aged all to know their role, and carry it out.

In less cap­able mic clutches, the didacti­cism would grow over-bear­ing but the emcees’ stage pres­ence, sin­cer­ity and music­al­ity amasses into a finely orches­trated hip-hop sym­phony. Util­iz­ing Hip-Hop tropes such as call-and-responses are a staple for get­ting any crowd hyped up but even calls to: ‘ladies make some noise!’ are punc­tu­ated by shout-outs to ‘Auntie Assata Shak­ur.’

No holds barred lyr­ics slam­ming white suprem­acy (‘Telling me white man lies, straight bull­shit’, ‘Cap­it­al­ism was inven­ted by the white boys’) and an appre­ci­ation and exper­i­ence of the Black per­son in poverty struggle res­on­ates with Black people, which made this a rare Black major­ity show in Lon­don. It’s a res­on­a­tion these days you wouldn’t neces­sar­ily even see at a Pub­lic Enemy show in the cap­it­al. But Dead Prez’s per­son­able hon­est warmth and hos­pit­ab­il­ity makes their mes­sage pal­at­able to all oth­ers too. A love for fel­low­ship, growth and com­munity makes their ‘People Army’ inspired by the mani­festo of keep­ing it ‘Revolu­tion­ary But Gang­sta.’ So rather than rhet­or­ic ready con­scious rap­pers who only wear the out­fit of mil­it­ancy, Dead Prez at their core are reg­u­lar guys, who make diverse music with con­trolled anger and optim­ism, rock killer shows and live out their ‘Big­ger than Hip-Hop’ men­tal­ity daily. And THAT is what makes them so, so Hip-Hop.

‘Rock­star life­style ain’t gonna make it, too many black men locked in cages. If I get wasted and you get wasted, what we gon’ do by the next gen­er­a­tion.’

Review by Perry Dom­in­oes

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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