Rap duo fails to keep unique message, sound
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 15:10
For 16 years, Dead Prez has represented the face of aggressive, socially conscious underground hip-hop.
Its debut album “Let’s Get Free” is easily the duo’s best release.
The album is also arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever recorded.
On Oct. 16, the Dead Prez hip-hop fans all over the world have come to know and love effectively became strangers with the release of its third studio album “Information Age.”
This album is one of the biggest letdowns in recent memory.
This should be a sign for the pair to stop making music under the same moniker.
Dead Prez was formed in 1996 in Florida by rappers M-1 (real name Mutulu Olugbala) and stic.man (Clayton Gavin).
At the same time M-1 was attending Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University.
This is when he met stic.man and bonded with him over a mutual passion for music, far-left political ideology and improving the lives of African-Americans in the U.S through music.
Four years passed between M-1 and stic.man’s meeting and the release of their debut album “Let’s Get Free,” the crown jewel of Dead Prez discography.
“Let’s Get Free” contains some of the most in-your-face lyrics ever featured in a hip-hop record.
Songs like “I’m A African,” “We Want Freedom” and “Behind Enemy Lines” reflect Dead Prez’s mission to not only entertain but inform listeners through the its musical content and lyrics.
The main difference between “Information Age” and the duo’s first release is the sound.
“Let’s Get Free” uses gritty, pounding beats to highlight its lyrics, whereas “Information Age” is an album geared to a more mainstream, nightclub oriented crowd.
This contrast is important, because Dead Prez used to loath the self-abusiveness and superficiality of mainstream rap music.
Now the duo is catering to this mainstream rap music style.
There is a fine line between trying to make lyrics socially conscious to the listener and having the music accent the lyrical content.
“Let’s Get Free” song “We Want Freedom” uses a pounding beat, directing the focus to extremely confrontational lyrics like “I’d go against a tank wit a shank for my dreams and that’s my fuckin’ word.”
By contrast, the first song from “Information Age,” entitled “A New Beginning,” uses a candy-coated beat that almost sounds like it was stolen from another hip-hop artist.
The beat almost drowns the underwhelming lyrics like “Stock market crashing daily, they say that times is scary, they dollaz losing value, but the hood knew that already.”
It just isn’t the same.
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the Dead Prez so many have embraced as pioneers of socially aware hip-hop music will probably never return to its passionate, thought provoking beginnings.
What it has transformed into is a perverted image of itself, an almost sick caricature of what it used to be.
Hopefully Dead Prez can limit the damage “Information Age” will cause while it is still early, because otherwise hip-hop fans will start to view Dead Prez in the same way rock fans view The Rolling Stones — group that just needs to stop.