Dead Prez- Revolutionary But Gangsta

September 8th, 2003

With political hiphop artists, things are never going to be simple. That’s why just as the highly anticipated follow up to the awesome ‘Let’s Get Free’ album is about to drop, it’s actually M1 and Sticman who are dropped from Sony, leaving the fan base scratching their heads and doubting whether they will ever hear the album which had already been gaining very respectable reviews in magazines and on websites.

But let’s face it, an anti establishment hiphop duo with Marxist principles and ideals was never going to play happy families with one of the largest corporations in the world for too long. So God bless the Internet when the CD, which many feared would be another ‘lost album’ leaked onto various peer to peer file sharing programs. It’s a hard one to find on the world wide mess and there’s no official word of the original track listing so it gets hard, but once the fifteen tracks are downloaded and thrown onto your winamp playlist, you’re in for one hell of a treat. And there’s no time to feel guilty about ‘cheating the artist’ the money you would have spent on the CD in the stores, because it isn’t in the stores and very possibly wont ever see the shelves, what with Sony owning the publishing rights and having full control over what they want to do with it!

The album begins with a short and very chilled track, featuring a soothing piano and a soulful female voice singing ‘We came from a distant land, our lives already planned, we came in ships across the sea, never again home we’d see’. Before long the drums kick in and it’s from this point that you can start nodding your head. The first proper track called ‘I Have A Dream Too’ will undoubtedly have people questioning the sound affects of gun shots. They’ll be asking ‘But I thought Dead Prez were intelligent guys who rapped about the communist manifesto rather than gun warfair…we’ll they’re wrong this time. This summer they are ‘Revolutionary But Gangsta’ so they’ll be mixing up the smart intellectual subject matter with hard edged in your face aggression.

By the end of track three, an interlude featuring Al Green’s classic ‘Let’s Stay Together’, it already seems like the album has too many fillers. I was left already wishing they had missed out the intro track, the spoken beginning of track two and the whole of the not so necessary third track and included one or two more full songs. An interlude of two people talking isn’t needed when what they’re talking about is portrayed in the verses of rapping in the song itself.

Track four is called ‘DOWN’ and poses the question ‘Are you down?’. It’s a typical Dead Prez song with a beat which confirms suspicions that as with their debut album, the majority of the music on this album will be leaning towards soulful chilled and slow paced sounds rather than fast and loud noise which many criticized the debut for not possessing. The track features several mundane verses but then seems to cut off, as if the boys didn’t want to continue because they got bored of it. Not to worry because the following track is ‘Hell Yeah’ featured on the ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ soundtrack which has a rocky and hard edge to it. This track is to this album what ‘HipHop’ was to the previous long player.

For me the track ‘W-4’ is the stand out track of the album, surely accessible for any and everyone over the age of sixteen who have worked to relate to. It tackles the issue of working for large companies and businesses for poor pay and a situation all too familiar in the society that the majority of the western world lives in. ‘Still paying 4.25, How the fuck we supposed to survive?…Click Clack, give me my shit back’.

Not too long ago DP dropped a mix tape to keep their fans happy during the wait between albums. The tape featured the two rapping over many familiar mainstream beats but one of the standout tracks was the song ‘Radio Frequency’ which was of an original beat and which also features on this album. ‘Turn Off The Radio, Turn Off That Bullshit’, a sentiment KRS One would be proud of. Here the two comrade’s stress the need for people to listen to the real rather than what is fed to them on irrelevant radio stations.

Featuring a sung hook which at this point in the album is familiar and to be expected, track eight titled ‘For The Hood’ holds an impressive beat which has a friendly bass line and a light Xylophone type sound, not forgetting the awesome and unexpected soul samples scattered throughout. Whoever produced this needs to hook up with the group a lot more. The beats and the vocals go together as well as Guru and DJ Premier.

With brilliant albums such as this one, there’s usually always a track which doesn’t quite fit in and gives the whole project a black mark and for me it was the midway track ’50 In The Cup’. The beat’s just annoying and the count down from 50 to 0 at the end of the track by a female voice is fairly irritating and pointless. As with most albums, I’m sure a lot more tracks were made than featured on this effort, and I’m sure one of them was a hell of a lot better than this. The following track ‘Way 4 Life’ has a nice electric guitar and a well placed spoken word message at the end, even though the flow is very basic and a lot lower than the high standard the previous ten tracks have enforced. As with earlier interludes the title track could go missed. It’s one of those tracks that makes you so grateful of your forward search button.

On the old track ‘Be Healthy’ from the previous release, Dead Prez rapped about eating nothing but fruits and such as well as smoking the home-grown herb. On this track ‘Twenty’ there’s a few points about what people are smoking on which will have any average weed smoker thinking twice. ‘Did you ever think how it got in that cellophane bag from the dreadlock man?’. It’s a change in opinion and belief which I like to see on follow up records. Development is the key to any successful and worthy music career and the final track ‘Walk Like A Warrior’ finalizes the development well by encouraging action like much of the album, where as ‘Lets Get Free’ merely pointed out the problems. Lyrical Content 4/5 Production 3/5 Final Thought: A solid contribution to an avenue of hip-hop increasingly becoming extinct.