Dead Prez explain their evolving approach: ‘Fighting fire with water’
Stic.man and m1 of Dead Prez have long been two of the more thoughtful emcees in hip-hop. Even before they burst onto the scene in the early 2000s with their classic debut album Let’s Get Free, the long-time friends shared a revolutionary political and social perspective that was heavily-influenced by the teachings of luminaries like Garvey, DuBois and Malcolm X. Today, the duo are still as committed to their cause as ever — but they have chosen to, as they put it, “fight fire with water,” a reference to a maturing perspective that believes in being smart in one’s approach to revolution.
“I remember times when I wasn’t fighting so wisely,” explains M1. “[I was] flailing wildly. Instead of hitting those things that Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier would hit, I was swinging wildly and not hitting what would make the most impact.” M1 believes that Dead Prez’s refusal to be pigeonholed has opened up their message to more people—but he insists that maturing doesn’t mean they’ve mellowed. “A fighter can’t mellow. A fighter can only use his strength. Once you’ve mellowed you’ve lost that edge, and you’re about to get knocked the f–k out.”
“Change is everything,” adds Stic.man. “The relationship with the music, the seasons that we live in. everything is all changing. Our logo is from the Book of Changes — the I, Ching. From the beginning, we have embraced forward motion, progress and adapting in our lives. We’ve had to do that in so many ways. The music is gonna reflect that. When I started doing the stuff on Let’s Get Free, I had gout in my leg, I was drinking 40s, smoking blunts, I had been in and out of jail. Today, I’m a business owner, a father and a husband, been sober for years, ran a marathon — I’m in a different place. [But] a lot of people make music and they find a sound an idea and they go repeat that. That’s capitalism.”
Dead Prez’s revolutionary mindset is still evident. They’re fighting for freedom all over the globe, embracing a new sound on their latest album, Information Age, and also launching RBG Fit Club–an international fitness campaign that encourages health and that’s centered on the Million Mile Movement. “We’re trying to get our comrades around the world to chip in a million miles—running, walking, whatever — as a collective,” explains Stic.
“This audience that’s listening to the gangsta sh-t or whatever else is moving our souls, I wanna be able to speak to that audience,” M1 says. “We see ourselves as the same person, regardless of if that’s North America, South America, Europe, Asia or Africa.”
“Even if you take a chance by putting something out that makes people say ‘That ain’t what I expected,’ you’re not losing creativity,” adds Stic.man. “As an artist, that’s everything. Once you lose that, you’re just a businessperson.”