Dead Prez | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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With the obvious exception of the Coup, it's hard to think of a hip-hop act more militant than the New York duo of and M-1, otherwise known as Dead Prez. In a recent online interview for Vibe, answered a question about what whites could do to help black people: "If you white, and you want to get down with our struggle, get along and all that extra shit, then give us our reparations." But they do understand realpolitik: the new RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta (Columbia) sets their radical lyrics to slick, major-label-friendly backing tracks. On their 2000 debut, Let's Get Free (Loud), Dead Prez used southern-fried beats in arrangements that had the cinematic sweep of Wu-Tang, but here they employ undigested chunks of soul, rock, and reggae, along with samples, sung vocal hooks, and live instrumentation. The blandness of the music has the side effect of focusing attention on the words: "I Have a Dream, Too," a bitter response to racially motivated police violence, makes "Cop Killer" seem quaint. And the breakout single "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)" (included in three versions, among them a Jay-Z remix--a bit of padding that makes the album's 45-minute length seem a little stingy) describes the way poverty and desperation produce a sort of backward vigilantism--the lyrics talk about landing food or money by any means necessary, including shaking down a pizza delivery boy. Poetree Chicago and DJ Mike Flo & the Neutronz open. $18 in advance, $22 at the door. Monday, May 31, 9 PM, Wild Hare, 3530 N. Clark; 773-327-4273.

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