“You can’t fool all the people all of the time
But if you fool the right ones, then the rest will fall behind
Tell me who’s got control of your mind?
Your world view?”
With lyrics like these, it’s no wonder why Dead Prez’s critically acclaimed debut album, Let’s Get Free was called a “return to politically conscious rap”. Formed in 1990, Dead Prez is an underground political hip-hop duo from the USA, composed of stic.man and M-1. The two met at FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University) and connected over their mutual love of music, socialist political ideology and the struggles they endured whilst growing up. Released in March 2000 by Loud Records, Let’s Get Free, is a transcription of the two’s political knowledge into lyrical poetry.
With sharp politically charged lyrics that have won the duo a special place in the hearts and record collections of hip-hop fanatics, including myself, Dead Prez attack the forces that contribute and perpetuate inequalities in modern society. From the first rap right through to the last, these are two MCs who deliver their message with as much force possible. With their militant and confrontational style, they raise awareness to the deeper issues affecting the hip-hop community, like the public education system, freedom of speech, racism, atheism and police brutality are made visible.
With lyrics like, “I’m a African/Never was a African-American and “I was born black, I live black”, I don’t think there is anyone in the hip hop community who has a pan-Africanist stance or is Afrocentric as much as Dead Prez.
Among the songs for black liberation and the socialist ideology, Dead Prez includes four tracks, Discipline, Happiness, Be Healthy and Mind Sex about love, self respect and communication.
Be Healthy is about eating right. “I don’t eat, no meat no dairy no sweets” and has become very popular in the vegetarian and vegan community; My personal favorite, Mind Sex is about getting to know your lover and appreciating a person’s mind as well as their body “before we make love let’s have a good conversation.”
As a way of delivering a message, Let’s Get Free is effective; however the shame is the dull musical backdrop which doesn’t go well with the powerful and bold lyrics contained in the album. The album’s beats and the duo’s rhyming skills have nothing unique and interesting about them. The punch lines and rhymes are not delivered in ways that make you go wow; they are all just direct communication. Another annoying thing about the album is that of the 16 lyrical tracks, half of them have intros before the rap actually starts. This gets boring after the first couple of songs.
Although the whole album is fuelled with powerful songs, Hip Hop, which is a combination of a buzzing bouncy bass and intense rhyme, is the centrepiece of the album. The instrumental version of the song Hip Hop was used as Dave Chappelle’s entrance music for his show on Comedy Central, and can be heard on every episode. The popular video game SKATE also features the song Hip Hop in their sound track.
The album is a true work of art and is worth lending an ear, especially if you’re a politically conscious person: It’s definitely bigger than hip-hop.