On Tuesday (August 6) in Washington, D.C., the “revolutionary but gangsta” group dead prez thrilled audiences at the historic Howard Theater. With well more than a decade in the game, stic.man and M-1 have been dropping their politically-charged brand of Hip-Hop consistently with no signs of slowing down. HipHopWired caught up with them backstage after their energizing set.
The “Black August” concert, put together by The Adinkra Group, also featured percussion orchestra Farafina Kan, rap trio Gods’Illa, Grammy-nominated songstress-rapper Maimouna Youssef, singer Martin Luther and hosted by Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers fame. The concert marked the 34th anniversary of Black August, a commemorative series of actions, concerts and other movements aimed to highlight the liberation of African people in the United States.
Keeping with that tradition, dead prez reflected on their path into the game and how they still feel their message can resonate with the young.
“Over the course of this journey, we just got a greater appreciation of what music is and what it can do,” said stic.man. “It can change lives.”
Flanked by M-1, stic.man continued to show an appreciation for the changing times and how the group has adjusted. “We call it a revolution through technology,” shared stic. “When we first started, it was about getting a budget, chasing studio time and things of that nature. Distribution was monopolized by five major labels; everything was about getting signed.”
He added, “The Internet, laptop studios, Pro Tools, it turned it over to the artists to make their own moves. Now, artists like us can be a lot more independent and touch the community with your art directly without censorship or a label telling you what to do.”
M-1 spoke at length about how Florida has changed, which is where they formed their group in the late 1990s. “The Florida of today is pretty much the Florida of back then when stic was in college,” he said. “We made a visit to Florida in 2012 at the invitation of this great group, The Dream Defenders, down in Tallahassee. We haven’t been there in so long and that’s where me and stic recorded our first song.”
M-1 added, “What makes that connection so significant is that they’re not letting up and they’re challenging the state’s “stand your ground” laws and occupied the capital house. These courageous young people are breaking the mold in ways that me and stic used to think about it back when we were younger. It’s always been a high spirit of resistance in Florida. There are towns there known to burn sh-t down so it doesn’t surprise us it’s a still hot bed for that.”
During the show, a young girl in attendance at the event with her parents approached the stage. M-1 was taken aback, saying that’s never happened at any of their shows. “It’s a positive challenge to stay relevant with young people,” said stic. “The older you get, some tend to get pessimistic on the youth, and the younger you are you get pessimistic against the elders. For us, the challenge is staying balanced.”
Both M-1 and stic.man said they respect younger artists and feel there’s room for their brand of music to flourish alongside the new style. However, they still aspire to move ahead beyond music as evidenced by stic.man’s RBG Fit Club fitness and wellness program and M-1’s record label and film making.
Quoting 2PAC, stic closed with saying, “2Pac said ‘a dead people need a lifestyle’ so when you ask if we can touch the minds of the youth with this style of music, it’s all about living and the youth gonna relate to the real sh-t.”
M-1 ended the interview, stating the message, “Don’t give up on what you believe in if it’s right, keep believing in it. Keep fighting.”
It appears dead prez has heeded those words for self as well.
Check out photos of Farafina Kan, Gods’Illa, Maimouna Youssef, dead prez and more in the gallery.
Photos: K. Agyeman