Thursday, March 30, 2006

Interview: M-1 of dead prez

I grew up in the era of Public Enemy.

In high school, when most everyone else was listening to bass music or oldies or freestyle, I bumped "Fear of a Black Planet" religiously, and wore t-shirts with the famous silhouette of a b-boy, arms crossed, standing defiantly in the eye of a sniper target.

That was my punk rock. That was my rebellion with a cause.

And that was 15 years ago, which in hip-hop, is almost like the dark ages. Today, rap music (or what passes for mainstream, at least) is nothing like the boot stomping, foot-to-the-rear-end-of-the-man razor's edge that PE represented. It's as if political rap never existed.

Luckily, folks like dead prez have not forgotten those times. And one half of the rap group, M-1, has taken it upon himself to make sure that the general public knows that political rap still exists. Thank goodness for that.

M-1 took some time to talk to "The Beat" after his tour stop Saturday night in Santa Cruz. Currently on tour with Ghostface, M-1 has an album out, "Confidential," that is available at your local record store. Cop that joint: the revolution needs to be subsidized by the people.

What's up, thanks for taking to time to talk to "The Beat."
Naw, naw, naw, it's okay. That's what I do.

So what's up with the new album? Why did you decide to do a solo?
The opportunity, more than anything. I was just really wanting to see more revolutionary culture out here in the world, and it's not represented, in my opinion. Just observing the situation that dead prez is in, in the world, I felt like it was a change for people, from what they would normally expect from dp. But I felt it was also a way to express who I am. You might not even know the real me. You might know dp, but it's a chance for people to get to know me.

Can we expect a dead prez album anytime soon?
Oh yeah, of course. You can expect an album, definitely. The new dp album well be out June, July, August. I don't know, but you
can look out for it. Me and, we working on it right now.

I was personally confused by your group's origins. You claim Brooklyn, but are you originally from the south?
I live in Brooklyn. I started out in North Carolina, and my partner is from Tallahassee, Florida, and that's where we met. I was in college at that point. But i do have roots in NC.

Are you in Cali right now?
I'm in LA, as we speak.

Have you been paying any attention to the walkouts and protests in Cali and across the nation this past weekend?
You mean around the immigrant protests.

I've heard about it, but I haven't been in it or witnessed it or been involved. I'm watching it as it happens.

Just to bring you up to speed, basically, a lot of Mexican and Latino activists have banded together to protest immigration reform that could include the felony criminalization of undocumented immigrants for simply being in this country.
Wow. That's real.

For us in Cali, it's kind of a repeat of Proposition 187, the anti-immigration law that passed in 1994 that made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to receive social services.
Word. I know about Prop. 187. We did a concert for prop. 187 in Oakland, right on the steps of city hall.

One of the things I like about you guys is your constant props to Black and Brown. Can you elaborate on the similarities in social struggle and consciousness between the two groups.
We are all that there is on the planet and we are the oppressed masses. Everywhere you look, you see us making things happen, and it's for a reason...
Without us, there would be almost no way to turn their natural resources into goods and services, without who we are, without the work that we do. The unity between black and brown is imperative to our civilization at the end of the day...
I'm not running around, yelling "Ya Basta," trying to romanticize something. I try to tell it as a revolutionary slogan. I don' t want people to think I'm romanticizing Mexico, or the image of that land and those people. I want people to know that this is something we need now
One of the most important meetings of our time, for black and brown, was between (Black Panther leader) Fred Hampton Sr. and Cha Cha Jimenez (sic)... After they met in prison, Cha Cha formed the Young Lords Party (a New York organization that was the Puerto Rican equivalent of the Black Panthers or the Brown Berets) and of course, Fred went on to do his thing.

You brought out Fred Hampton Jr. to give a speech during the "Dave Chappele's Block Party" film. How did that union come about?
Fred is everywhere right now. This is a political animal, this guy. When you talk about what he has to bring to the table, it's a lot, his history and everything.
I just did what history told me to do. My relationship with him was the work i did on the Campaign to Free Fred Hampton Jr. This was when he was apolitical prisoner from 1991 to 2001...
When he was free from behind enemy lines, we decided to work together. I see him as an ally. He's developed a organization called the Prisons of Consciousness Committee, which I claim to be a representative for because of him. He's a fantastic organizer and he's a leader.

I always ask an industry insider question when I do Q&A's, to give folks insight into the business aspect. Your question is: At this point in your career, do you make more money from CD sales, or from tickets and merch sales on tour?
I say, at this point in my career, as M-1 going around touring, I probably get more money from the record sales. As dead prez touring, I get much more money touring than as far as royalties from dead prez. But with the way my album deal was structured where I get more of a take of the profits, I'm trying to do it all and get more of a take.

Where do you think you and your group see yourselves in the pantheon of political rappers like Public Enemy or X-Clan. Are you coming along those lines, or are you trying to carve out a different identity for yourself, like a new coming of political rap?
I don't regard myself as a new revolutionary coming at all because it's in the process...The reason why revolutionary hip hop has not been the most important thing in the world is because hip hop is controlled by the industrial corporate interests. And they don't want to recognize the revolutionary work that some of it's most important artists contributed...
I look at Public Enemy, they had a lot of revolutionary work. Tupac had some very revolutionary work, which a lot of people don't' recognize. I just follow it down that line.

Have you seen the documentary "Inventos" by Eli Fauntauzzi?
Yeah, my brother Eli. Inventos.

What are your thoughts on the hip-hop movimiento going on in Cuba and South America in general?
Man, that was an experience that took me to another level in my career. I became more of an international African political animal. Just for me to watch the peoples process of growth, watch the development , that was totally enlightening to me. I can't say enough about Cuba.

It sounds like it was a pretty profound experience for you
I went three times, and I went once by myself. My partner stic didn't see the ramifications of how important it was at first. But when we went down there and saw the movement, we both realized how big it is...
I recently went to Venezuela, and Hugo Chavez, he's the truth. That's all I can say man. Hugo Chavez is the truth.

Is there anything else you want to throw out there or plug
I just want to say that the album "Confidential" represents M-1's new effort to embrace revolutionary culture. This is an RBG (Revolutionary But Gangsta) affiliated project, and I just want to let people know that we're not going nowhere. Even if we're not on the TV screen, not up in the videos, we're not going nowhere. We're right here, we're organizing and we're alright.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long Live Revolutionary Hip Hop!
Big love to M1 and to Marc Cabrera
for this article.