M-1 and stic.man of dead prez treated a Bed-Stuy crowd to a free show last night (June 16) as part of NYC’s SummerStage Festival. Thirteen years after their debut album Let’s Get Free, dead prez’s on-stage game was as focused and message-driven as ever. After coming out hard to “Malcolm Garvey Huey,” the rappers wished all the Dads in the crowd a happy Father’s Day, saying, “We’re keepin’ it hood tonight…keepin’ it father-hood!”
Playing just a few blocks from the Marcy Houses, they launched right into “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System),” a track that opens with the chanting of Brooklyn street names, and that Jay-Z added a verse to on 2004’s Revolutionary But Gangsta. The rest of the set spanned their whole catalog: “They Schools” and “Bigger Than Hip-Hop” from Let’s Get Free, “W-4” from RBG, “Back on My Regimen” from stic’s solo album The Workout, the 2008 single “Politrikkks”, and “Time Travel” from last year’s Information Age. From their four-volume Turn Off the Radio mixtape and in true dead prez form, they rapped “Don’t Waste It” over the Gucci Mane “Wasted” instrumental:
Rockstar lifestyle ain’t gon’ make it, too many black men locked in cages/If I get wasted and you get wasted, what we gon’ do by the next generation?
The next generation even made an appearance toward the end of the show, as Small Axe, stic’s 12-year-old son, jumped onstage to show off his guitar skills. The young musician told XXL that last night’s performance was only his second and that, “I hope to be able to play more in the future and for people to know who I am.”
A screening of the documentary Soul Food Junkies, directed by Byron Hurt and scored by stic.man, followed the performance. The film investigates the soul food tradition’s impact on the black community, and in an interview with XXL after the show, stic.man called the collaboration a natural match. “When Byron reached out to me about Soul Food Junkies, to score it, I was saying yes even as he was asking it.”
Stic said that his work on the film was “a good extension” of his solo creation, The Workout—a hip-hop fitness album designed to inspire healthy personal discipline. As stic explained to XXL, “We’re building a movement for holistic health through hip-hop. We have a campaign now called the Million Miles Movement, and I would encourage people to go to rbgfitclub.com and deposit your miles from running, walking and cycling. Let’s keep it growing.”
It was clear throughout the evening that the MCs were grateful to be performing in M-1’s native Brooklyn, the borough that birthed dead prez. Making frequent reference to the long line of healers, teachers and revolutionaries from Brooklyn, they reminded the audience at one point that Assata Shakur “used to be right around the corner from here, on Herkimer.”
Summing up dead prez’s commitment to merging political, spiritual and health consciousness, stic explained to XXL, “Everything we do is spirit. There’s no spirituality without action, without activism. So the only way you’re gonna see your spirituality is in your work.” —Katie Moore