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FEATURE: dead prez,The New Danger

Black power is more than just slogans and bandanas. Just ask dead prez. The poster boys for what many would consider “revolutionary rap” have been holding it down for the movement since they blasted on the scene with their raucous anthem “Hip Hop.” But while raising the consciousness of many, M1 and have also been relegated to the outskirts of the culture. Now proving that they are more than just relevant to the red black and green set, the two-man crew has teamed up with the Evil Genius Green Lantern for their latest street album, Pulse Of The People. caught up with both M1 and Green as they dropped science on the new album, not downloading their music, why they’re responsible for Soulja Boy’s growth and why Nelly wants to be like them.

XXL: It’s safe to say that you guys are pretty much on the outside of the radio popularity circle. Why did you guys pick now, at this time in music, to release this project?

M1: Well, I mean from a dead prez point of view, why at this time? Because it’s the perfect time. We have much to say and a fantastic opportunity with Green Lantern on the beats. I mean, not only are we trying to get out all of our creative spirit and juices but we’re also trying to stay on top of our business side and maintain ourselves no matter what the environment [in music] is.

XXL: With sales down a lot of artists are saying it’s only important now that people hear the music or hear the message. How important is it that people actually buy the music?

M1: Well the industry is doing a delicate balancing act of trying to market music to people who know they can get it for free, but can also purchase it. I don’t think there’s any way to stop people from getting music for free. At the same time, I’m not gonna jump on the side of the RIAA like getting music is a crime and people should go to jail for downloading. But the time that we’re in, I think it’s very important that people go and purchase music because the survival of certain kinds of hip-hop depends on people being able to come in and support it. That’s how you move some campaigns of music forward that need to be out here. And that’s how dead prez survives.

Green Lantern: I agree and M makes some great points. The execs have been making so much money off of this music, stuffing it in their back pockets and throwing it in our faces to the point where fans are not supporting these labels, not necessarily the artists. But sometimes I don’t think that the consumer understands that by not supporting their favorite artists and getting [music] for free, they’re actually damaging the livelihood of these same artists that they love.

XXL: The Pulse Of The People is a little different from what people tend to expect from dp. Do you think this will stop people from pigeonholing you guys as a group?

M1: I can say that by statements we’ve made and actions that we’ve taken and having a non compromising stance, people have accepted us as the group that’s going to give you this political insight from the point of a view of people that’s ready to break free of a system that oppresses you. And that’s just what happens when people think that this is how something is supposed to look. It’s happened to us but it’s also probably happened to other people like Busta Rhymes. People probably always want him to go “rah rah.” So I do think this project will break us out of that kind of mode and will also break that notion of what people should expect from those who are clear in where they are in the world. People who realize what we realize arent’t just revolutionaries, they’re pimps, hustlers, teachers, dice rollers, 40-year olds…people think that you only have to look like me or have a red, black and green wristband to [be conscious] and that’s not the case. We’re much more than that.

XXL: Right, there are joints on here that made me do a double take…

M1: Yea, because we’re just trying to show the vibe of our whole community. It’s times when we’re on some summertime shit when we just wanna cool out and lay back, nah mean? Have a shot of tequila or whatever. But all in all it’s still the same environment and same mindedness of it though. But this one might be more profound because it has that lick shots feeling behind it with Green Lantern on production. And vice versa open it up for Green who people might only know for putting out street shit or putting motherfuckers on to the hottest new dude out the trap.

XXL: Speaking of street shit, if I’m not mistaken I read in an interview where you guys had some pretty critical words for OJ Da Juice Man and Soulja Boy as well…

M1: I don’t take a lot of this hip-hop shit subjectively. It doesn’t rule my life. But if I take time out to say something about an artist, one you must know that it wouldn’t be a personal criticism at all.

XXL: So you never worry about being tagged with the “hater” or “bitter rapper” label?

M1: Nah, and I wouldn’t make a personal criticism because a lot of artists music don’t reflect them personally. I realize that. I know that this is a television show. I know that this is a soap opera and I don’t live in soap opera world. Rappers actually beef over the subjective parts of their lives that aren’t even real and that’s not what I’d be participating in at all. I might have said something about Soulja boy but it wasn’t about Soulja Boy, it was about what he said. People were asking me about when he was asked to name one thing in history that he was proud of that happened and he said slavery because it took him out of Africa and enabled him to be wearing these gold chains and be doing hip-hop. There are people who may have the perception that this is what slavery meant and I just want to be able to say ‘hey man, maybe you haven’t done your research.’ I’ll take responsibility for his growth and be the one to impart that to him. But as far as labeling, I don’t care what people say.

Green Lantern: I think it was me that said something about OJ Da Juiceman in an interview but it was just me talking about my friends who might be OJ’d out or Gucci’d out who listen to trap music all day but will be able to respect a record like “Don’t Hate My Grind” with dead prez and Bun B and be able to relate to that too. And as a producer, that’s what I wanted to do, present a side that everybody could relate to musically.

XXL: So who’s somebody that people might not even know that checks for dead prez?

M1: Probably the first time I experienced that was at the Source Awards back in 2001 Snoop threw a black fist up at us and I was surprised. I didn’t even know that he identified with us like that. Then I went to the bathroom and Nelly was in the stall next to me and he was like, ‘man, I wish I could make music like y’all. Y’all the shit.’ So at that time I began to see that all kinds of people get down with us.

XXL: Both you guys are veterans in the game yet you’re still down to try something new…

Green Lantern: This is just the perfect time for this new energy and this new imagery to be introduced. For so long people have been force-fed that things have to only be one way or have to sound like this and that’s not true and that’s what we’re trying to get across. You can have the gangsta records and be successful but also have the other side too. The Kanye’s the Kid Cudi’s and as far as I know, I’ve never heard a gun sound in a Drake record so far period. So when you get a dead prez and Green Lantern coming together to do some new shit, it’s perfect. The stage is set. People’s minds are open. It’s a whole new era, man. –Anthony Roberts

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