On the eve of Election Day, Mutulu Olugbala – better known in the hip-hop world as M1 from the New York hip-hop duo dead prez – got off a plane in Dallas, picked up his phone and talked to us about what he has taken from this, um, eventful, presidential election.
“This exercise has been a process in futility,” says Olugbala, 44, who currently resides in Miami. “It happens every four years and it represents the white-power dynamic in America. It offers us choices that are not real choices, answers that are not real answers and leadership that’s not real leadership.”
M1 goes on to call the whole election process a “charade.”
“This process, which vies for the leadership of the imperialist world, is one that excludes black voices, black choices or black options. It is meant to continue to keep ruling-class people in power and corporations to be the deciding factor. Whether Clinton or Trump is in office, it represents the exact same system and is a win, with a capital W-I-N, for America – with three Ks.”
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If you feel those are incendiary words, you obviously have never listened to a dead prez album. Along with fellow MC Khnum “stic.man” Ibomu, M1 has made dead prez one of hip-hop’s most revolutionary but gangsta (to borrow the name of their 2004 sophomore album) groups. They made their intentions clear way back on their 2000 debut “Let’s Get Free,” which included the Kanye West-produced track “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop,” which later became the entrance music for comedian Dave Chappelle on “Chappelle’s Show.”
dead prez continues to keep it on the underground tip, releasing music independently and collaborating with other artists who are just as passionate musically and socially. M1 could practically be considered Donald Trump’s worst nightmare, since he has no qualms welcoming foreigners to these parts. Earlier this year, he teamed up with Congolese Afro-electro rapper Young Paris for the fiery dance track “Get Ready.”
“He’s actually a Brooklyn guy,” he says. “Yes, his father’s from the Congo in Africa and, yes, he has African roots, but he is an African who grew up in Brooklyn. So, that’s where our connection is, and the record we did is an example of, I think, an African, modernized style that speaks in a language that could be understood by the world about our present conditions.”
M1 has also collaborated with Italian producer Bonnot, releasing the album “Between Me and the World” in May.
“Bonnot is my actual production partner,” he says. “We didn’t just make one song together. We have made two albums together and toured Europe several times.”
So, what makes M1 want to work with artists from other cultures? He believes hip-hop is a language we all speak.
“Hip-hop has been a great bridge,” he says. “It’s been a bridge for language barriers, cultural barriers, political barriers, education barriers that happen outside our community. So, within hip-hop, there are no borders. There aren’t different countries. There aren’t different languages. They’re not even different problems. It’s all the same problems looked at from a different perspective or that viewpoint or vantage point.”
dead prez is not only out to stimulate the eardrums, but also the mind and the body. stic.man runs the RBG Fit Club, which specializes in providing fitness and healthy living for people through courses, books and, yes, music. As for M1, he launched the first in a line of meditation mixtapes, called “Free Up! The Meditation Series,” a year ago.
“Anybody who listens to dead prez know that our inclination is to talk about our whole self, our physical self, which has a lot to do with health; our mental self, which has a lot to do with political education or information; and our spiritual self, which has a lot to do with being alive and being connected. So, all in all, we’re talking about wellness.”
M1 is looking forward to performing in the Triangle next week. After all, he grew up in both Brooklyn and Raleigh, where his father lives. And he’s also looking forward to showing audiences that he and his partner aren’t just some angry, woke provocateurs. They are men who want what is best for the human race.
“We are human beings who are dedicated at being and seeing the best that humanity has to offer,” he says. “We will do it through culture, through activism, through ‘artivism,’ through our families and our communities and, ultimately, through a revolutionary process. dead prez is bigger that music. dead prez is about real life, about living life. dead prez is bigger than hip-hop.”
Who: dead prez, with Shirlette Ammons
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Pinhook, 117 W. Main St., Durham
Info: 984-244-7243 or thepinhook.com