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Rap’s Dead Prez grab Kanye’s attention

Dead Prez, which became a critically acclaimed act after their 2000 debut album, “Let's Get Free,” perform Thursday at the Red Room Lounge.
Dead Prez, which became a critically acclaimed act after their 2000 debut album, “Let's Get Free,” perform Thursday at the Red Room Lounge.

Mainstream radio listeners may not know who they are, but Dead Prez are your favorite rapper’s favorite rappers.

Last month, upon the release of his “Yeezus” album, Kanye West – he who says he doesn’t do press but who gets the most – talked about his influences in a rare interview with the New York Times.

In addition to his grandiose claims of divinity, West elaborated on two of his strongest influences, claiming to incarnate both Steve Jobs (“I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet”) and underground rap duo Dead Prez. From his time hanging out with the New York hip-hop duo, Kanye found his own voice by taking their politically charged message and making it palatable for the pop culture.

West said, “I would produce for them. You know, I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo, but I am Dead Prez.”

Dead Prez rapper Stic.Man responded to West’s comments in a lengthy post on his Facebook page, complimenting West’s artistic vision and prowess with marketing cultural taboos.

Of West, Stic.Man said: “I think Ye studies the dynamics of life and uses it to his advantage for marketing. He looks at contradiction as the way things really are. He doesn’t want to fit in any one sided box. I think for him he has found his lane which blends a lot of points of view that are often polarized but with Ye’s art it becomes one. … Everybody don’t agree on everything but at the end of the day I can understand how these artists are making their decisions and I think Ye offers a great deal of value to hip hop. … Even if he don’t sit right in some folks expectations. I relate to his contradictions.”

Dead Prez is respected by the emcee elite for their scathing lyrics and delivery centered around issues of militant social justice, the Pan-Africanism movement, poverty and the corporate control of the media.

They are perhaps best known for their 1999 single “Hip-Hop,” about the overcommercialization of modern music. The song was used as the entrance music for Dave Chappelle’s show on Comedy Central and is also featured in the 2001 video game “Skate.”

With their 2000 debut album, “Let’s Get Free,” Dead Prez became a critically acclaimed act and was heralded as a rebirth of political hip-hop a la Public Enemy and N.W.A. 

Dead Prez has since put out just two full-length studio albums, 2004’s “Revolutionary But Gangsta,” and “Information Age,” which was released digitally last year and physically in January.

Though they haven’t been exactly inactive, as the Stic.Man and M1 have released a handful of mixtapes, street releases and collaborative efforts, including the 2006 collaboration “Soldier 2 Soldier” with 2Pac’s Outlawz. They were also featured in the 2006 cable documentary “Dead Prez: It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop.”