Thank God for the remix. Without it Dead Prez and Kanye West may never have established a working relationship and thus shared a certain kinship. Although his contribution to the seminal Dead Prez debut Let’s Get Free was just a remix to their most popular song, the bass heavy “Hip Hop,” (a beat so infectious Dave Chappelle kicked every episode of his short-lived comedy show with) the seemingly small contribution led to things bigger than Hip Hop.
See also: Kanye West Gets Dark and Political on SNL
In Dead Prez, a then-unsigned Kanye West found role models of a sort. As he put it in a recent New York Times article, “It wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.”
While some people were surprised at West’s eagerly admitting the impact the duo had on his rhyme style, those of us who paid closer attention to Kanye’s evolution weren’t as shocked. After all, Kanye did produce a second Dead Prez cut that appeared on the unofficial version of Revolutionary But Gangsta called “For The Hood” and if you heard Kanye rap on Def Poetry Jam you know exactly who’s book he was taking a page from.
In advance of Dead Prez’s Summer Stage appearance tonight at Bed Stuy’s Herbert Von King Park (7 p.m.), we caught up with the duo to see what’s new and how they felt about Kanye’s comments.
So you put out Information Age. How was it received?
M1: Well. I think it expanded on the message we’ve been talking, but you know it’s the same message just from a different angle. It’s the same old stride. But I’m always happy to have new product out for the people.
Stic.man: It was something new and a chance to experiment a bit. Some of the people liked that it was different. Some of the diehards though want the same thing over and over again. But that’s with anything. You ain’t no artist if you ain’t pushing some people’s buttons at some point in your career.
Stic, I know you responded on Facebook to the Kanye West comments. M what did you think of them?
M1: What’s so funny is I think that convo is not new. To people like you and me it’s not a new conversation. Kanye West has said it times before. But I’m thankful that he’s grounded and that he has a comprehensive education. And yeah, he wiles out. We all wile out, but I still see him as someone who is connecting the dots.
Stic.man: People take that whole [statement] like it’s a big surprise. First of all, we’re all influenced by everything, so I’m not taking it as no big ego thing. Kanye is beyond talented in his own right. But I think that we as people are dynamic. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we can relate to different things. What I honor and appreciate about Kanye is certain people may not get into some of his antics and personality in certain ways, but he still honors that other side too and he makes it a point to include certain things that people in the game at his level just don’t do. So you can look at the glass half full or half empty.
How was Kanye West when you met him?
Stic.man: Outside of that industry shit, when I met Ye I met a brother from Chicago who was confident like Ali, who believed in himself so much that it taught me some things about self-confidence. So much so that the confidence came in the room with him. Like you knew this was the Mohammed Ali of production. He felt like “Y’all gonna see, the world gonna see.”
See also: Rejected YEEZUS Cover Art
What was something that struck you about Ye?
Stic.man: He tattooed the songs he produced to his arms at first. I’d see him again later and he’d have more songs tattooed.
M1: He was quiet at times. Very introspective. He would come through sometimes talking about his [Jordans] or his tattoo. But I remember when he was rhyming about something [with substance] his eyes would get wide and after the verse he would just give you the stone face stare like he didn’t care if you applauded him or not. I can relate to that face because that’s how Stic and me were. We’d perform certain songs and didn’t give a fuck if the audience applauded or not.
It’s ill that he never lost that passion.
M1: Yeah, he’s got passion. I remember when he broke his jaw in LA and he recorded “Through The Wire.” I remember he paid for the video with his own money. From early he had other shit going. Some artists treat their label like it’s welfare. He never really relied on Def Jam. He even shot the other versions of “Jesus Walks ” with his own money. I actually have an ill story about “Jesus Walks.”
M1: When Kanye recorded his demo he called me up wanting to get me a copy right then and there. I was at the hotel about to leave on tour and he came running over to put the demo in my hand so I could listen to it on tour. He just wanted me to sit with it while I was traveling. And you know what? First time I heard “Jesus Walks” was on the tour bus. This version had a crazy long intro with the Harlem Boys Choir, I think, and people on the bus were saying it was wack. I knew that shit wasn’t wack. And sure enough he proved so many people wrong with that one song.
What do you think of Yeezus?
M1: I like it. But see, I’ve already been moving in that direction with my music. We’re so far from where we were that I was ready for that change. I think people who are ready for that change will like it.