dead prez: Plantation Life

Fans have anxiously awaited an album release from internationally acclaimed rap duo, dead prez, for several, painful months. While it has already garnered stellar reviews sources at Columbia Records have revealed (off the record) that dead prez was no longer on its payroll. The group was allegedly dropped according to unofficial reports as a result […]


have anxiously awaited an album release from internationally acclaimed rap duo,

dead prez, for several, painful months. While it has already garnered stellar

reviews sources at Columbia Records have revealed (off the record) that dead

prez was no longer on its payroll. The group was allegedly dropped according

to unofficial reports as a result of what was deemed “as poor projection of



politically charged group’s debut Let’s Get Free, moved approximately

300,000 copies in the United States. Execs were apparently concerned about the

upcoming project, despite already being completed.


an interview prior to the disappointing, but not surprising news, M-1 likens

industry life to plantation life and explains why they “stic” with

it. when you and stic first started looking for a deal who did you

reach out to and what was your experience?

M-1: We had a few friends that gave us some names and numbers because in the

beginning we didn’t know all the names and titles of those people at the

labels. Then we started calling people and going up in the offices like you

need to see us. We approached Russell a few times up in the elevator and his

words to us were. ‘ Y’all need to stop cursing so much.’ Cause

he knew…he knew we was cursing at the government. He could get with DMX but

he couldn’t get with us cause he knew our intentions were different. We

tried to get with this lady at Columbia but at the time she took a little too

long so we went to Steve Rifkin’s office at Loud Records. They had a good

rep in the streets.

AllHipHop: What was your experience with Loud?

M-1: We were on Loud for 6 years. Four of those years were spent without releasing

our first album, Let’s Get Free even though it was ready to go. We saw

Big Pun come, we saw Wu-Tang come with albums, we saw a lot happen while we

was just sittin. Then, Loud started going through a lot of changes with its

distributors we were caught in the middle. Every time they switched distributors,

our release date was pushed back. Because once the distribution changed, the

partners changed and the company began a new relationship in dealing with the

money exchange. Those distributors were the beneficiaries who bankrolled what

would happen to Loud Records, the backers. How the checks got cut, new deadlines

were set, everything would change each time. That’s why it took four years

until we finally saw Sony.

AllHipHop: What happened when Loud finally folded?

M-1: Once Loud became unable to keep up with Sony’s high standard to put

out the kind of records that it sells for the 40 million dollar per year entity

that it is. I mean you really have to do a lot of platinum to keep up with that

and Loud Records was not a powerhouse platinum label like a Def Jam. For the

most part their artists had a cult following but they needed that attention

paid but they wanted Mariah Careys. Eventually, that worked to the detriment

of Loud because eventually their departments became swallowed up as they couldn’t

produce. Loud itself fell into Sony companies, dissolved it and sold it to different

parts. That’s how we ended up on Columbia.

AllHipHop: Was that your choice? Did you have any say so?

M-1: Oh hell no. Hell no. I would have been free. We tried to run from the plantation.

We saw the plantation was burning down we was trying to escape in the middle

of the night. Ol’ dude was standing in the corner and snatched us up when

we were trying to sneak into the woods and took us to the next plantation.

AllHipHop: same s### different day, huh?

M-1: That’s my total analogy. For anybody that can’t understand that

I don’t know how to get it through any clearer than that. We were sold

like slaves in the middle of the night

AllHipHop: What led to the decision to put out the mixtape you guys released?

M-1: In a good way that experience of being bought and sold and feeling like

a slave led us to think of ways to do for self on our own. That’s when

we produced the mixtape, Turn off the Radio Volume 1. There was a serious lack

of understanding and vision on the part of people just paid to do a job in the

industry. We could have used some great guerilla tactics promotion and marketing

tactics to do a lot more for what I think dead prez needed. But scared money

don’t make money. Bossman was too scared to put his money where his mouth

was and we ended up making some great records that never came out. Some of them

were used on the mixtape. We did some songs with the Marleys, Damon, Julian

and Steven. We made relationships with people like Sol Slim from the New Orleans

camp. We did some things with Beatnuts, our crew, Tahir, Larry Blackman from

Cameo but hey that’s what Turn Off the Radio ended up becoming. We were

able to make some statements because a lot of times people look for rap that

makes sense but without correct political education you can’t make sense

of all this. So, that album helped us to make statements about Iraq and other

issues, when there really were no avenues on the radio or anywhere else to do


AllHipHop: How do you think current attacks on civil liberties like the Patriot

Act affect hip hop and do you feel there are efforts made to suppress political

voices in hip hop?

M-1: Yes. There has to be. Music is the primary tool by the voiceless used to

get our culture. With access to it, bourgeois media will suppress our voices,

BET, MTV… Whatever. They will govern that to make sure nothing gets through

that could impede the steady propaganda that they feed us. We are clear on that.

They got the Patriot Acts 2 and 3 on its way. So if they are thinking that far

ahead we need to be thinking that far ahead.

AllHipHop: Is it your agenda to expose or prove that? M-1: I don’t have

to expose it. People know it for themselves.

AllHipHop: Do you really think people know it?

M-1: People do. It’s popular now to question the government more than ever.

The majority of people are not with the US government.

AllHipHop: If people know it, why continue to support the criminality of black


M-1: I think there is a difference in do people think the system is broken and

what people will do to make money. For some people just because they know the

system is broken doesn’t mean well let’s fix the problem. It means

well what that gotta do with me.

AllHipHop: So what do you think will happen to hip hop as a result of that mentality?

M-1: The same thing that’s going to happen to Black people as a result

of that mentality. Hip hop is a microcosm of the real world. It is not the real

world. So whatever would happen to Black people, Latino people the people who

really know are suffering still. I’m not talking about the ‘burbs

or those people who ran out and bought Eminem’s album. Even though 50 ain’t

selling crack on the streets he’s selling crack on his raps. We suffering


AllHipHop: How can you explain the overwhelming support you have among white

youths in contrast to the Black/Latino youths you make your music for in the


M-1: We are in the interest of building power that’s all. Power is the

main focus. It doesn’t matter who unites with it. Ever body must unite

with it but we gon’ make sure that our people unite with it. There is no

diversion. I’m not thrown off by it. I see it and I understand the phenomenon.

Those middle class kids have an affinity for this working class sentiment. It

makes sense, it answers all the questions they need to hear. It is the reason

why they are going to school. When they see it in the raw, they have to unite.

AllHipHop: Yeah but when its time to pick a side who’s side will they pick?

M-1: Well that remains to be seen. None of this is based in trust. I have no

trust in white people but why should I just by the way we have been betrayed.

There has to be a relationship built by solid real work. Them shouting I’m

an African at our shows just provides a basis on which to confront them. Oh

yeah, you willing for us to be free? How far are you willing to go? If you can

not be held accountable and organize, to hell with you coming to my concerts

saying I’m an African. But that’s the job of the movement is now I

got you what you gonna do now. I saw you move to a side, I saw you pick it now

what are you gonna do now? Call ‘ em on the question and that way we can

clear up the b#######. Believe me I don’t expect them kids in Portland

and Seattle and especially in those “hip hop” backpackin circuits

to do much. But when you hear this sentiment right here believe me its no hate.

It is just irony. It’s irony that this music we so intended for our community

went to the sons and daughters of the m#### fuckas we sold the s###. The people

who owned the masters just sold the s### to they cousins and them over in Middle

America with soccer moms and all that. When we wanted to sell it in our hoods

but that wasn’t their concentration. It’s just so ironic.

AllHipHop: Have you like many artists have had the experience of people and

friends approaching you hoping you could help them get on who weren’t aware

of your situation?

M-1: Oh yeah. People don’t understand our relationships and our resources.

It’s almost like saying just because you work somewhere you can get somebody

a job. It’s not true. If that were the case your whole family would be

working. I’m not in a position to do much if anything for anybody when

it comes to that but people don’t understand.

AllHipHop: Why make the decision to be your own management?

M-1: We could probably benefit from having someone to manage us but we don’t

do commercials and s### like that. We don’t do ads for nobody unless they

going to pay for the hood. We tried working with different people a few times

and it never worked out so we just decided to do it ourselves and we’d

have a lot less headaches. It’s a lot to deal with sometimes but we’d

rather that than deal with somebody who doesn’t understand our vision trying

to get us to do soda commercials.

AllHipHop: how frustrating is it to deal with the labels at this level?

M-1: Some times I sit back and I….I hate them. But I have to do it. I think

it’s something in my heart. In the middle of the night last night I woke

up to write at 2 in the morning. That’s why I have to do it. I have to

get it out. I have to say what’s in me. I don’t care if anybody ever

hears it ever. But there’s something in me that says, ‘Yo you gotta

explain this or somebody gotta explain it to me.

AllHipHop: Do you get frustrated with the masses?

M-1: You gotta have faith. One thing you can’t lose is faith in the masses.

What humbles me is we are only as strong as our weakest link no matter what.

I don’t care how strong the rest of this whole s### is. And the people

have all the answers. They will pull it out on you and show you what you been

doing wrong the whole time but you gotta have faith.