Dead Prez Fitzgerald's August 18, 2011
M-1 and stic.man of dead prez are not your typical activists. Their message--fight the establishment, eat broccoli, and copulate mentally - isn't exactly easy feast in a world rife with apathy, junk food, and promiscuity. But that's never stopped them from kicking knowledge anyway.
Since the duo first shot into hip-hop consciousness in the late '90s, they've done everything by their own rules, as the young, diverse Fitz crowd would find out Thursday night. Stranger still, they've managed to inspire a generation of politically salient MCs with just two albums under their belt: 2000's Let's Get Free and 2004's Revolutionary But Gangsta.
If you've never heard of them, start with those two and work your way up to the mixtape stuff.
The first four hours of Thursday's concert featured a motley crew of openers - a wildly experimental Hollywood FLOSS, a raging V-Zilla, an intently focused League of Extraordinary Gz, and an adorable Afrocentric couple named Riders Against the Storm.
Dead Prez took the stage at 1:25 to the tune of "Radio Freq," setting off a whirlwind tour of their thin but essential catalog to life. Throughout the show, the duo devised an imaginary world where everyone listens to Fela Kuti and eats vegetables.
The music is the selling point. These guys like their beats stark, their rhymes melodic. Though last year, the duo reintroduced itself to the new generation on the breezy Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz. Hosted by DJ Drama, the mixtape found stic and M-1 spreading their relentlessly raw rhymes atop popular beats.
They played some choice cuts from RBG:Grillz Thursday night, including a few that were instantly recognizable. "The Beauty Within" turns Bruno Mars' pop smash into a paean "not to America's Top Model, but to the natural girls right next door"; Lloyd Banks' "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley" gets a conscious makeover on the rechristened "Malcolm Garvey Huey."
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They ditched purists' favorites and those well-known cuts about criminal fantasies in favor of inspiring but philosophical songs. The move probably scored them a handful of new fans at Fitz.
With the clock now on the right side of 2:00 and the venue getting restless, they powered on completely unfazed. "We came to give the people a good time," M-1 said.
And that they did, lunging into the best four minutes of the show with a ferocious rendition of their highly influential masterwork, "Hip-Hop." Yes, that moment was worth the price of admission.
Personal Bias: You think? Raised on sparse beats and crunk rhymes, we were.
The Crowd: Beautifully diverse, breathlessly funky.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You smell real nice, dawg."
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Radio Freq Hell Yeah W-4 Be Healthy Malcolm Garvey Huey The Beauty Within The Movement Hip-Hop Gotta Luv It
See the next page for a photo gallery of Thursday's openers.