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DEAD PREZ @ Amplifier gets 7.5/10


dead prez @
Amplifier Bar
w/ Charlie Bucket, Karl Blue, L Street and more
Thursday, December 12, 2019

7.5/10

dead prez are underground legends, the real deal, what hip hop was always supposed to be about – conscious social expression. They commentate, motivate and inspire, all while rocking the shit outta the joint! If some of their material wasn’t just a bit too socio-political, honest, independent and confrontational for some people, they would probably be one of the biggest hip hop acts of the last 20 years.

Last time they were here, eight years ago for their first ever Perth show, they rocked a packed Villa on a Saturday night in March, with the local hip hop scene turning out in force. For their second visit, we were lucky that they decided to add Perth date, at fairly late notice. Sadly this was a Thursday night, a couple weeks before Christmas, and there was a disappointingly poor turnout, that saw the gig downsized from Capitol to Amplifier – but that didn’t stop the dynamic duo of M-1 and stic.man giving 110% and putting on huge, yet intimate performance for the small, lucky room.

L Street

Since exploding onto the scene with their politically charged debut Let’s Get Free in 2000, spearheaded by their breakout single Hip Hop (still a massive tune), the NYC group have blazed their own path, refusing to conform or be silenced. While they are now older, wiser and clean living, dead prez are still two of the most underrated MCs of all time, spitting tight, complex rhymes with a real deftness. They walk the walk, and haven’t strayed far from their Black Panthers-like socialist ideology.

Karl Blue

They’re a breath of fresh air in today’s rap scene, which is plagued by mediocrity and autotune. dead prez spout empowering messages; rapid-fire rapping over hard-hitting beats. A heavy, gangsta sound, with intelligent lyrics avoiding the guns, bitches and bling clichés. Political, active and educated, they respect their minds and bodies, and want you to as well. To them, discipline, strength and knowledge equal power for the revolutionary soldier.

While the crowd was small early on, with many sitting around outside drinking or bowling, there was still an air of anticipation in the building. But it was a long wait with dead prez not coming on until after 11.30pm. Till then it was up to some of our finest veteran hip hop DJs including Karl Blue and L Street to try and generate a bit of atmosphere.

Charlie Bucket

Charlie Bucket did well to get a few more people inside and dancing, building the vibe with some classic tunes and great skills, that were acknowledged by dead prez’s long time DJ Mike Flo, when he finally took the stage to setup. He was followed by M-1 who incited some big cheers. While stic.man seemed to get lost on the way up from the green room and took a bit longer. When they finally did arrive on stage there was an ecstatic response, and they kicked off with a bang, dropping their anthem Turn Off The Radio.

They blazed through an awesome selection from their huge back catalogue, with plenty of early classics like That’s War and the awesome Hell Yeah (Pimp The System) that really showed off how good each MC’s flow is, the chorus getting a huge singalong. M-1 humbly acknowledged the crowd: “Thank you for your energy Perth. It’s a small room, but there’s a lot of heart.” A night that looked like it could be total disappointment, ended up being a special set for those in attendance, as they took a half-empty room and created a huge vibe and sound.

Dead Prez

They showed off their rebel roots with Fuck The Police, but not to incite mindless anarchy. “Fuck the police is kinda universal. This is rebel music. Black Panther rap. But it’s all love. That the basis of the revolution,” said M-1. There were some shouts out to the local African and indigenous community, including a few particularly excited representatives.

As the author of a health and nutrition book, as well as a solo record called The Workout, Stic.man is very much into his fitness, and busted out an inspirational a cappella, and a track from his upcoming album that we’ll dub ‘fit hop’, dropping in February. Back on My Regimen is the coolest, most banging, motivational, workout track ever, featuring lyrics like “I’m insane about my health and fitness/ To me, time to go train is all I want for Christmas/ Squats got my calves and my quads on sizzle, my abs gettle chisled/ I’m loving my training, I’m always on it, ‘cause I’m building up the life that I’ve always wanted!” As he put it, “Health is wealth. Healthy is the new gangsta.”

Dead Prez

This message was backed up with their 2010 track Don’t Waste It, its lyrics touching on the pitfalls of self-destructive indulgence. “Rock star lifestyle ain’t gone make it, too many black men locked in cages/ If I get wasted and you get wasted, what we gone do by the next generation?”

No Way As The Way was a more upbeat track, a harmonious contemplation on religion and its inherent hypocrisy. “They say God will take care of it, but you a terrorist if you say the same thing in Arabic.”

2000’s Police State is still a powerful melancholic sermon, with a wicked groove. While born of the poor African-American struggle, there are themes that are universal and resonate. They School is a poignant commentary on the failure of the public schooling system, and they posed another powerful message, to “vote with the way you live your life, what you consume and your choices.”

Dead Prez

But they finished it off on a party vibe, giving the crowd what they were waiting for, and blowing the roof off with Hip Hop – the timeless tune’s huge rumbling sub-bass setting the crowd into a frenzy as they shouted along with the chorus “Hip! Hop! Hip! Hop!” They gave it a bit of a rewind, starting off the first verse again with a lighter, remixed beat, building it up, before dropping the bass in the second verse, with everyone belting out. “Who shot Biggie Smalls? If we don’t get them, they gonna get us all!”

Their DJ Mike Flo even stepped out from behind the decks to bust out his own track, showing that even dead prez’ DJ is a better MC than most players on the scene these days. It’s a sad state of affairs that the likes of dead prez struggle to pull a crowd while much less talented pop-rap crap pulls huge crowds.

Dead Prez

Maximum respect to dead prez for showing up and belting out a rock solid set with total class and professionalism, despite it probably being the smallest crowd they had played to in years – and respect to the true hip hop fans present who responded with the might of 10 times as many numbers. Support true talent. It’s bigger than hip hop.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Adrian Thomson

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