Many people think that hip hop is of little substance and depth, and that it is just ''party music''. This is to some extent true, a lot of rape is misogynous, short sighted and violent. Dead Prez, along with most of the more afro centric artists are certainly not misogynous or sort sighted. However, they are very violent. They describe themselves as ''somewhere between NWA
and Public Enemy
'' this is a fair comparison, they mix the deep heavy beats and aggressive ''Gangsta'' bravado of NWA with the conscious rhymes of Chuck D.
The record begins with 'Wolves' which along a piano loop has a sampled speech by Chairman Omali Yeshtela, this describes how a wolf can be killed with a knife trap, as it will drink its own blood thinking it is eating something else, and will bleed to death. This is an analogy of drug dealing in American black communities. The way white privileges attract black people to make their money dishonestly for example, by selling drugs, which harms the community. I don't eat any meat at all, nor do I kill any animals, so I get squeamish listening to this, and I often skip it.
I don't usually like fast rapping, and I feel it is often making up for real ability with wordplay and presence. However, ''I'm a African'' has strong lyrics, delivered with inventive rhyming, and they do not descend into fast chatting off the beat. The lyrics are concerned with black identity and different black idols, such as Peter Tosh
. The music consists of sparse jerky drum beats, with a lot of snare hits. Along with a droning string sample.
'They Schools' is a polemic assault on the American school system, the lyrical approach slows down for this track, which suits stic.man and M-1 more than rapping quickly. The lyrics are concerned with difficulties people go through in school, and the lies and hypocrisy in the current American educational system. Reminiscing on arguments with his history class teachers, police searches in school and the lack of useful things being taught.
''Bigger than Hip Hop'' is the most commercially viable track on the record. Although it isn't too close to ''RnB'' or ''Urban'' to put off fans of underground hip hop. Similar to the sound of Mobb Deep
with sparse beats matches with melodic loops, which occasionally descends into a drawled chorus. ''Its bigger than hip hop hip hop hip hop'' also, the lyrics are more big up hype than black power hype. With boasts of violence and disses of commerical rappers. Most of the raps are fast, but once again, they aren't as fast as some of the rappers around 2000 when this record was released. The instrumentation is rather tedious with a droning electronic melody.
The instrumentation on the record is rather weak, although the sparse drum beats are effective at charging the rhyming rhythms the pair employ, the choices of melodies are often misguided. Most of them are a drawling electronic sound, which really drags some songs on. A great album would need to be enjoyable whether listened to as instrumental or complete. Some of the songs use more organic sounds, such as female vocals, flutes or African rhythms. This organic sound would have much better suited the entire album and its themes, but unfortunately this is only fully realised on 'Behind Enemy Lines' and 'Mind Sex'.
'Mind Sex' is one of my favourite Hip Hop love songs. Although most Hip Hop love songs are merely boasts of the artists sexual exploits, while songs about women are about how they have been hurt by them, or how they enjoy exploiting them. This is about true respect for women. About how instead of objectifying women, he respects them, and enjoys their company. The music is also a highlight, with strings and female vocals leading the melody over a smooth drum beat.
''Man is evil, capable of nothing but destruction''
''Animal in Man'' starts with narration, the G-Funk bass driving the music forward along with occasional flutes, strings and piano loops. This is a retelling of Orwell's book 'Animal Farm'. This however has a different overall message to that of Orwell's, while Orwell's book is about why the Communist movement failed and became Stalinist. This is about inherent disloyalty of some people (not aimed at blacks or whites) and the way the pigs betrayed the other animals. Also comparable to the emancipation proclamation, and the way some blacks have gotten rich by helping the white, while many have been left in poverty and many whites have also been betrayed.
The issue of race is prominent throughout this record. After reading about the record, I was very anxious to hear it. I wondered if I would feel unwelcome listening to such an afro centric group, who refer to whites as crackers several times. To tell the truth, I definitely don't feel as unwelcome, as I had expected, and enjoy the rhetoric and polemic of the record, the wordplay of the artists and the subject matter. The only thing that really drags this record is its sound, if they had used their influences cited on the record, such as Public Enemy, NWA or Peter Tosh they might have come up with an album that’s also strong and interesting musically, unfortunately, the sound is very average.