Dead Prez | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Political hip-hop has grown scarce over the past decade, as so many MCs settle for simplistic worldviews like "I'm rich, fuck me" or "These are the end times and I am in-saaaane." Brooklyn's Dead Prez have been a notable exception, particularly on their fine 2000 album, Let's Get Free (Loud). Sticman (Clayton Gavin) and M-1 (Lavonne Alfred) started rhyming together after they met at college in Florida in 1990. Though the two seemed occasionally humorless, cuts like "Cop Shot" ("The only good cop is a dead cop / Police brutality must come to a stop") and "I'm a African" ("Bounce to this, socialist movement") lived up to their slogan, "RBG"--"Revolutionary but Gangsta." The duo's new Turn off the Radio: The Mixtape Volume 1 (Full Clip), credited to DPZ (a proper Dead Prez album is due on Columbia this spring), is dumber and less fun than Let's Get Free. They shout "revolution" a lot--as often as possible, it seems--but "The White House is a rock house / Uncle Sam is the pusherman," a phrase repeated in nearly a third of the songs, is rote conspiracy theory, and "Soulja Life Mentality" is capped by a foul dismissal of white women: "The enemy can't never be no friend to me / I just get my dick sucked / Nut in their mouth instantly / They ain't nothin' but freak shows." The few moments of relief come when they contrast samples of rap and R & B hits like Black Rob's "Whoa!" (which becomes "That's War!") and, of course, Aaliyah's "We Need a Resolution" with their own straight-faced earnestness ("What I gotta do to make sure you understand / Spit on a beat by Timbaland?"). Let's hope the Columbia disc is a return to form. Thursday, February 13, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anthony Cutajar.

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