On their 2000 debut, Let's Get Free, Florida rap duo Dead Prez (MCs Sticman and M-1) offered a template for living as detailed and unsparing as "the honorable" Elijah Muhammad himself, touching on subjects such as ethnic identity ("I'm an African"), education ("They Schools"), priorities ("It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop"), and even nutrition ("Be Healthy": "I don't eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets/Only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit, and whole wheat"). If this sounds pretty humorless, well, it is. If you want a less pedantic take on radical leftist hip-hop, then check out Dead Prez's sometime collaborators the Coup. But if you assume the group's humorlessness makes them dull, well that's another thing. Most instruction manuals don't come equipped with hard, quick-paced Southern flows and even harder gangsta-grime beats.
On Let's Get Free, Dead Prez claim to fall somewhere between N.W.A. and Public Enemy, and that about sums up their appeal: They're politically confrontational (and "conscious") in the same way that Public Enemy was but with the kind of dangerous, street-level undercurrents that informed N.W.A.
For what they're trying to do, Let's Get Free was an untoppable template, but the band's latest album, Revolutionary but Gangsta, is plenty strong in the same vein and even boasts an intense cameo from hip-hop superstar Jay-Z on a remix of the single "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)."
Dead Prez performs at the Complex (704 Madison Avenue) Saturday, September 25th, with local openers Yagaboo, Tunnel Clones, and The Iron Mic Coalition. Advance tickets are $20 (and will go up at the door that night) and are available at the Complex, as well as at the following local businesses: the Remix, Nappi By Nature, New World Accessories, and Java, Juice, and Jazz.
It's also a big week for indie-rock fans, especially at the Hi-Tone Café. On Thursday, September 23rd, Chicago's The Detachment Kit will be joined by locals Mouse Rocket and The Circuit Benders. Then, on Monday, September 27th, Dallas-based buzz band The Secret Machines return to town, with The Color Cast. • --