Liberation, revolution and 808s: Talking with dead prezApril 18, 2017
Emcees M-1 and stic.man make up the revolutionary hip hop duo (with a gangsta lean) dead prez. Formed in 1996, they’ve released three studio albums, as well as numerous solo projects, from M-1’s international project AP2p to stic.man’s ground-breaking Fit Hop movement. They bring their hard-hitting beats and deft lyricism to Nectar Lounge on Thursday, 420 (April 20). We sat down with stic to learn more about the group.
Nectar Lounge: dead prez has been around for more than two decades now. How would you say your music has evolved in that time? Are you pretty different from when you first started out, or similar?
Stic: Wow, 20 years damn, when you say it like that…that’s like we can almost drink now! Yeah man, there’s a quote Muhammad Ali said… “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
You know, we’ve definitely been learning, growing and changing. Experimenting and getting feedback and adjusting our values and how we go about different things. I think, essentially, the mission ain’t changed: let’s be free. You know, to be liberated from all types of enslavement and limitation and prejudice and oppression and all the things that are very much alive in the Trump era. I think with this wisdom of time and peeling back the onion layers of life, hopefully we’ve reflected on some of the things in our youth that was youthful in our perspective. I think we’re just trying to continue the journey in a wiser more mature manner. That would be my take. My partner M (M-1) probably has his own perspective, but yeah.
NL: You mentioned the Trump administration…dead prez is known for having politically aware lyrics. Why do you think it’s important to remain politically active through music? And how does that translate into a live show?
Stic: You know, we got labeled political rappers, but we never really wanted to accept that one box. Cause it’s like, just because you’re aware of politics and speak on it, it’s like, ‘oh, ok you’re political.’ But we think that people should be aware of the politics that affect their lives, just as much as the health or the entertainment, or any other aspect of living. To us, to not be focused on all of those things is being in a box. And the idea is: let’s be free. So let’s be aware of all these things.
The industry kind of said, ‘you guys are political because of the absence of conscious political discussion in popular music.’ But everybody is, we’re all political rappers because our message is political. Even if we’re talking about selling crack. Or we’re talking about sexism towards women, that’s the politics. I think it’s a disservice to the hip hop community when we, when they box ideas like us into the political box. Because it makes people not realize that the other things they’re listening to are also political. That’s my thoughts on that.
I think what we do translates into our show. We try to have a holistic experience and we try to show people how politics connect with everyday life. We bring the energy, we bring our views on health and wellness, on family, on community, activism on solidarity on sustainability. The whole spectrum of being alive. And we try to fuse that with some 808s, and our daily energy in that moment.
NL: You brought up health and wellness. A few years back you founded the RBG Fit Club. How did healthy living become a passion of yours?
Stic: Right on. I guess, we all know health is a foundation. You can’t be rich and enjoy it without health, you can’t be politically active and effective without health, you can’t be parents to an optimal ability without health. I’ve come to believe and understand that health is the center, it’s the front lines of everything else that we want to push forward. It’s universal, and it requires personal agency.
For me, I was caught up in the cultural lifestyle of the streets growing up, and part of that was not taking care of your body, abusing weed and alcohol, not getting no rest, being stressed and angry all the time. All these things. When I turned 21 I came down with a condition in my leg called gout from that, you know which is a buildup of uric acid from that lifestyle: eating a bunch of meat and fast food and all those kinds of things, not drinking no water. Anyway, by learning how that lifestyle was affecting my health at that deep level, I was able to become more mindful. I embraced a plant-based lifestyle, became interested in fitness, became a decade long martial art student. Now I’m a certified long distance running coach, life coach certified, archery instructor. You know, just 360 degrees.
I’m still a white belt and loving investigating more. I’m in school now for meditation coaching. But I have this secret. I know where my mentality was, where my health was, where my outlook was. And we talk about revolution but a lot of times it’s really just projecting our frustration onto some “ism” or system and it’s not really dealing with core healing and transformation. So to me, I know my past, the fork in the road was…how can I be the most impactful with the talent, interests and experience that I have. That’s what kind of produced the Fit Hop movement of combining the hip hop culture and awareness movement with health and fitness and how that matters, and the liberation. That’s the core of my passion.
My wife introduced me to plant-based lifestyle, she’s been a vegan 25 years, she got a degree in nutrition, so this is all, it permeates everything I do, and I try to think it permeates my music and what we do live.
NL: You mentioned a desire to be more impactful, do you think your healthy lifestyle and Fit Hop has had a positive impact on fans?
Stic: Indeed yes yes, it’s like, with some of our earlier work with dead prez we received positive feedback that we inspired somebody to commit to more community activism or commit to becoming more aware of the politics and the things going on, standing up to injustice when they see it. But we also find that a lot of people took our music to pursue anger, and at a certain point, like fire, anger kind of burns itself out, or it’ll consume you. But with the Fit Hop and with our “healthy is the new gangsta,” I’ve seen people say, ‘I’ve quite smoking. I’m more positive. I meditate now. I started running. I’m eating better. I lost weight. I’m getting along with my family better.’ I see that in constant letters, when we do shows and what not and. Where my earlier work may lead someone to say, ‘I got a glock, if somebody touch me I’ll harm em,’ my later work will make people say, ‘I know how to resolve that inner conflict in myself a little more and I can move wiser.’ So I’ve definitely seen that and as far as the legacy, I’m more interested in having people have a better understanding of themselves and can move toward making the things we want to accomplish justice-wise happen in wiser ways. So I feel good about that.
NL: You’re about to go on tour, what are you most looking forward to?
Stic: Aw right on man, just continuing, I love to meet new people, be in new spaces and places. People always give us feedback of how our music is a part of their lives. We always find cool shit that people are doing in a number of different interests so it keeps our ideas, our ears to the street with the people and what’s going on and we can amplify that back onto our platform. It’s like a family reunion! All the comrades coming together, celebrating revolutionary cultures. And building connections to keep growing the movement.
NL: What would you say people can expect from the upcoming tour and your show at Nectar? Why should they come out?
Stic: Man, If you ain’t never met M-1 personally, this guy’s incredible. Man, you know we have fun. We’re at a place where we got a lot of experience, a lot of passion. We’ve been doing this longer even than 20 years, that’s just professionally. It’s been a dedication since 5th grade for me. We bring a timelessness to the practice of hip hop. And a lot of people aren’t getting that, they’re not seeing real MC skills, they’re not feeling a genuine love vibration even though it’s still hardcore gangsta, you know they’re not seeing it. So at our show people understand that we always bring a good energy that’s shared for a long time after the show. So. Come and get crackin.
Catch dead prez at Nectar Lounge this Thursday, 420.