“I think Obama is a wonderful person to listen to speak. That n*gga is up there with Jesus with those speeches.” -Stic.man
At the dawn of the Millennium Stic.man and M-1 of dead prez gave hip-hop a much-needed shot of political angst and revolutionary verve with their debut Let’s Get Free. Even the cover, with it’s image of Soweto children raising rifles in unity, still resonates.
Ten years later they are still going against the grain with their latest project,Pulse Of The People. Going outside of the box the duo has worked almost exclusively with DJ Green Lantern on this CD, who has produced for more radio-friendly artists like Busta Rhymes, Ludacris and Nas.
“The sound is not the traditional dead prez sound,” M-1 explains. “Green Lantern has such a mainstream presence and he is a hard-core DJ for so many different kinds of people. It was a very different experience. We cannot wait to see how people react to it.”
They recently tested out some of the new songs in support of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival so The Urban Daily caught up with the duo to get their pulse on the music industry, breaking personal stereotypes and our very alive Black President.
TUD: Looking at the present state of African Americans in the United States, what do you think the pulse of the people is in 2009?
M-1: The pulse of the people now is awareness. People are more aware of where they stand on certain things, or what’s going on with the economy. It’s because things are constantly changing. It’s different everywhere you are. Today I am in Houston, TX, and there is a different buzz going on than it would be in Brooklyn. What we represent in the pulse of the people is all the different aspects of where we are in this glimpse in time. Where is the baby mama? Where is the gangster? Where are our people in Africa? What is their pulse? We checkin’ their pulse. So that’s what we meant by Pulse of the People.
TUD: Record stores are about to be extinct. What are your thoughts on the current condition of the record industry?
M-1: It is a great day for independence. It’s a perfect opportunity to make or break with a system that has been continuously exploited for years. What we always thought is [happening] now. We hope to be more ready, to put out more projects to speak to it even more. But it’s always good to know where things are. At this crossroads, there is a delicate balancing act that’s trying to be done; how will artists maintain their lively hood, at the same time when there is an out of the gate, wild industry that is constantly growing by leaps and bounds every second? The consumerism of hip-hop is growing. But the main crux is how do the people translate this into the business of it? That is what the old model of record labels are dealing with the most. How do we take the traditional model of promotion, marketing, publicity, and elbow grease- and translate it back into the same type of sales. Because the CD sales are diminishing, the way we communicate with people is changing, and the way music is ingested is happening at a different rate.
TUD: Do you ever feel confined by your reputation as being political? For example, what if you wanted to go out and buy a beer or rent a porno? Do feel like “oh no I can’t because people think I’m dead prez and people have this image of me and what I’m suppose to be about”?
M-1: Yeah. Obviously people have more of an assumption and expectation from dead prez than from someone they don’t know. I’m sure it happens with other celebrities–not to say I’m a celebrity. But people do have a preconceived notion of where I should be and how I should act. I love breaking those stereotypes all the time. I do go get a beer, I have rented a porno. I don’t do it now (Laughter). I got the Internet, I don’t need that no more. I still have things that I do that I want people to know about, that make me so human. I make way more mistakes than I get it right. And that is the fight for all revolutionaries. You have to make being a revolutionary very easy to do. It needs to be an average thing in life, to know what time it is and to want to fight back. That’s the fight. And that’s what I am faced with.
Stic-Man: (Laughing) I am so opposite of that. I don’t care. I wouldn’t give a fuck what nobody say. I watch pornos, smoke herbs. I mean I am a health conscious person, but it’s not for the public. It’s not for an image. I don’t give a shit what people think. Everyone has something to say or think, but ain’t nobody taking care of you. I know I live a lifestyle that’s real and authentic with my family, my peoples, with my music. Everything that I do is authentic, to me. Now if you thought I was something else, then pay attention. (Laughing) For me, I’m keeping it 100.
TUD: Speaking of which, I want to ask you Stic about the cover for your Manhood album. Everyone I knew saw the white suit with the black shirt shook their head asking, “what’s this about?”
Stic-Man: (Laughing). Yea man, it’s a side of me that shows how much I love 70s music and that era. When I was working on my album, I wanted that element in it. Of course it’s hip hop, but it’s influenced by people such as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gay and Al Green –not putting myself on a level with them–but their ability to have swagger and substance. They were still able to be about something.
To me, in my humble little way- that is what I was trying to represent. I realize that people have me in a box more than I even thought. People thought I was trying to sell out. But aint nothing selling out on my record. I thought I looked nice in my suit.(Laughing) Now you see that side of me. I’m the same dude that said Lets Get Free.
TUD: Soon it will be 10 years since Let’s Get Free was released. It’s an amazing thing to say that we have an album that has withstood the test of time. Talk a little bit about what that project means to you now, knowing that it will be a decade since you recorded it.
M-1: I am in awe of hip-hop. Just because I have been able to make a livelyhood from this, which I never thought I would. I gotta give it up to the bad part and the good part of the system that we criticized. Just being able to test my thoughts in the battlefield of the world people, and seeing how people rise to the occasion. All of this has been a fantastic fucking journey. And it is far from over. When I look back and think it has been 10 years since Let’s Get Free, I remember making the album thinking it may be the only statement that I get to make in life. It may be the last thing I get to say to somebody. It was the eve of the millennium. We felt like if there is no room for a dead prez, then this should be the content of what young people who are struggling should use to go forward. If not, it would be the last thing we said before we would be out. It is amazing, and amazing to think about it in that way.
“The 3.2 billion dollars they gave in the stimulus plan to the prison industry was definitely not for the people.”
TUD: The single, “Hip Hop” took on a life of its own. It has been used commercially on television. What do you remember about the making of that song?
M-1: We were at the end of our album: Let’s Get Free, after making it for so long. The album was coming out at the end of the year 1999. Everything was so “poppy,” similar to how people feel about music now. We were feeling that way in 1999. But Stic, who was a heavy producer on most of the album, along with certain cuts that are hot was just playing around in the crib, with the sound. He started messing around with this little knob. As soon as we got finished making it, we started making fun of it. Saying “yea: this is what they want. They want hip— hop—-” It just ended up being such a light headed way to do it. It was not a serious attempt at making a record at all. By making fun of it, I just spoke the rhyme right on the spot. We were on Nostrand and Dean in Brooklyn and we made it in the basement. We added a little mix to it, took it into the label and it translated instantly. People were able to see exactly where we were going.
Sticman: We had a good idea on how we wanted the album to touch different subjects. At the time, there was a lot of (for the lack of better term) “down south” stuff going on. We were not talking about a lot of issues we were dealing with in real life; it was mostly about parties and stuff. I was messing with the ASR-10 and the little bass wheel and I cooked up a little beat. I was going to make a joke when M and the homies came through. When they came in I started laughing saying Hip— Hop—-. They were all like “Yo nigga, that shit is crazy.” (Laughing) I was playing around. We talked about it, and I was like- “are you all serious.” They said, “Yo n*gga, that bass is crazy.” I really didn’t think that much of it. Then M wrote his verse. The way he came on the beat, that’s what made me say, “oh, that’s how you hear it.” We were just playing around, and it ended up being our biggest song. The song people know us for.
TUD: Now I couldn’t finish an interview with dead prez without asking about our first Black President, Barack Obama. What are your thoughts on his historic election?
Sticman :I got a political and general view. Politically, him being black and being president- I haven’t seen the significance yet. I recognize it’s historical. I am so happy for his daughters and his family. I think Obama is a wonderful person to listen to speak. That n*gga is up there with Jesus with those speeches. (Laughing). He is just world class with his ability to use his lawyer techniques. As an MC I can appreciate his talent. I am happy he is here on the scene.
Politically, his agenda is business as usual. He still promotes capitalism. He is still the black face of a white power system. The 3.2 billion dollars they gave in the stimulus plan to the prison industry was definitely not for the people. He still represents Uncle Sam, in terms of the job he has to do. We got black police that still send us to the same jail. Just cause we have a black politician don’t mean the white house still ain’t the White House. (Laughing) People think if you have anything critical to say about the administration then you attacking the black man. I ain’t attacking a black man. I’m a black man. But when the black man giving 3.2 billion to the prison industry, he aint giving the black man a chance ‘cause we the ones in prison.
But we have to be able to respect him for the historic nature but be able to critically analyze the situation. It’s bigger than hip-hop and it’s bigger than skin tone. It’s about your agenda and what policies you’re putting in place for the people.