Dead Prez go digital, but still fight the good fight on ‘Information Age’

Dead Prez go digital, but still fight the good fight on ‘Information Age’

Dead Prez’s Information Age is now being released as a physical album, and fans of the politically-aware duo of sticman and M1 that may have missed out the album when it was initially released digitally in 2012 have a chance to check out the pair’s latest offering. This is their first “official” studio release in close to eight years, though they have never stopped recording. They released several collaborative efforts and the mixtape “Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz” in 2010. And on their latest effort, they tackle everything from the economic crisis to the benefits of drug-free and healthy lifestyles.

The thumping “New Beginning” announces the new sonic flourishes that the Prez have embraced this time around. And while some fans may be undoubtedly shook by the shimmering sonic backdrops and digital thump, the subject matter is just as topical as its ever been. With the maturing duo exalting the changing times and turbulent socio-political climate as evidence that everyone has to re-think their priorities; sticman and m1 make it clear that they don’t fear what’s happening. Quite the opposite, they embrace it as a catalyst to change much of the ills of the world.

“What If the Lights Go Out” wouldn’t sound out of place on an OutKast album a decade ago, sonically; and the lyrics focus on the harsh realities that most of the population would face if resources and money were suddenly no longer available. “Dirty White Girl” is a clear standout track— a home run that masquerades as a club-friendly thumper (with a race-baiting title) but is actually an anti-drug anthem that treats cocaine addiction as an evil temptress.

If you don’t believe lush soundscapes and computerized percussion can be emotionally evocative, the late-album track “Scar Strangled Banner” is one of the most charged songs on the album. An indictment of black people’s history in America and a questioning of the habits that the people have adopted.

Not every track on the album works. Sometimes the hyper-digital production (courtesy of TR!X) could evoke cries of Drake copying, which is not what one would expect from veteran hip-hoppers as visionary as Dead Prez. But their lyrical focus is always sharp, even when the beats backing up their ideas sound generic. The sound of most of the album, however, straddles the line between contemporary digital soundscapes and throwback ’80s electro rap a la Afrika Bambaataa and Mantronix.

There will be those that criticize this album for what they feel as pandering to contemporary fads. But Dead Prez don’t pander — this is the sound of a couple of savvy artists testing themselves and pushing themselves creatively into uncharted territory. The fiery young men of Let’s Get Free are still there, but they’re much wiser and their focus is less about swinging wildly at monolithic evils. These two men have matured but are no less revolutionary. And the fact that they have continued to try new sounds may be the most revolutionary trick they’ve pulled off yet.

–stereo williams

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