Revolution is a tough pill to swallow, especially for today’s hip-hop listener. The average head would rather hear about glittering grills and candy paint than politics and Black Power. This puts artists with a message in a precarious position, because you can’t kick the truth to the young Black youth if no one’s listening. So dead prez’s M-1 skates the fine line between commercial and conscious on his solo debut, Confidential.
For every revolutionary but gangsta song like “Comrade’s Call,” where M and Styles P trade rabble-rousing lines like, “It’s the people against the pigs/We splittin’ the crackers’ wigs,” there’s a radio-ready track that showcases the Brooklyn-based MC’s gentler side. On the Q-Tip– and Cassandra Wilson–assisted “Love You Can’t Borrow,” M-1 opens up to the woman of his dreams over light guitar licks and a bouncy live bass line courtesy of primary producer Fabrizio Sotti (“This ain’t a mind game, shorty, this is mind sex/Get out the rain, sweet thing, before you get wet”).
Die-hard dp fans needn’t worry about M-1 going soft, as he delivers the bass-heavy sound and thought-provoking content they’re used to on “5 Elements” and “Early.” The latter finds him reuniting with partner stic.man to explain the virtues of discipline. M only trips up when he reaches for regional respect on songs like the LT Moe–produced “Don’t Put Down Your Flag.” His calls for gang unity are drowned out by an imitation g-funk beat complete with cheesy synth bass lines, cowbells and stray keyboard sounds. “The Beat” suffers a similar fate, Tahir’s keyboard-crazy production coupled with M’s weak verse about, well, the beat, come off like a conspicuous play at club spins. Aside from these contrived compositions, M-1 manages to craft a well-rounded project that should open a few ears and minds. —TIMMHOTEP AKU