Revolutionary hip hop artists constantly face the reality of being typecast as “conscious,” which means that they may never achieve mainstream appeal. Their audience is going to consist of mainly white liberal students, not the Black youth of urban and rural America, which is their intended audience. So in an attempt to reach Black youth in a mass way, Dead Prez continues its battle to not be restricted to the political arena. But at what cost?
Now, M1 steps to the mike solo with his recently released “Dead Prez Presents M1 Confidential.” I really was excited about this album when I heard about it. With their recent albums not having as a resounding effect like that of “Let’s Get Free,” I was waiting for Dead Prez to come in to this round swinging, with sharp beats, revolutionary politics and fervor. However, to my disappointment M1 takes an even further step from the group’s “Let’s Get Free” roots. This is the least political album Dead Prez has ever put out.
In a time where the contradictions in our society are increasingly apparent, I couldn’t think of a better time to put out a disciplined revolutionary hip hop album, but M1 does not deliver. And it hurts. M1 is such a powerful MC, and the production, for the most part, is flawless. Tracks like “5 Elements” and “Comrade’s Call” are examples of how ill M1’s production is. He encompasses the catchiness of most radio hip hop, but holds on to the necessary underground twang that keeps you excited.
But let’s be honest. This review is not going to be about how musically on-point or catchy M1 “Confidential” is, it is about the politics, the content and the differences from “Let’s Get Free.” The main problem with the current direction of Dead Prez is what they are telling young Black kids: “You can be a revolutionary and also still be a gangster.” How do you go from “Bounce to this, socialist movement. My environment made me the n—-a I am” to “Now I’m not saying don’t ride or don’t bang, but use new eyes when your looking at the gang, no slanging around the babies?” This is what happens when you have to decide to either be a revolutionary or a gangster. Dead Prez has attempted to fuse the two. But you cannot be a revolutionary and sell drugs or gangbang.
When it comes down to it, everything I wanted this album to be it was not. The politics would be dope if I were an angry high school student. However I feel these times call for a more systemic critique that is a little beyond “F—- the Police.” With the current administration falling apart and hopefully losing its control of Congress in the upcoming elections, we need an analysis that points directly to capitalism and the lack of democracy in our country. Artists need to see the difference between being critical of the reality of Black America and looking at those same problems and seeing them as inherent parts of Black culture or identity.
Abdul Hassan (email@example.com) is a student and leader of the Young Communist League.