It seems like you can’t escape Kanye West these days. From his tabloid wet dream relationship with soon-to-be baby mother Kim Kardashian to the deafening hype surrounding his upcoming release Yeezus, due out June 18th, the man seems to be on everyone’s mind. It’s a point made during a recent interview with The New York Times in which West declared that he is, “the Michael Jordan of music,” among other monster quotes. But far-out hubris aside, one part of the sit-down that caught many by surprise was his heartfelt shot out to revolutionary rhyme act dead prez.
According to West, the uncompromising duo of stic.man and M-1 have had a huge impact on his more socially conscious, rebellious work. “Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And 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,” he said of the critically-acclaimed group.
When VIBE caught up with M-1, the two-fisted MC was gracious in his reaction to West’s unmitigated praise, which also included the rapper/producer recalling, “I was just hanging out with them all the time in New York. I would produce for them. You know, I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo, but I am dead prez. And now, because I was able to slip past, I have a responsibility at all times.” Read on.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
VIBE: What was your reaction to Kanye West saying that dead prez stands as one of his biggest artistic influences?
M-1: Hearing Kanye say that about dead prez is like man sharpens man, steel sharpens steel. I consider myself a peer of Kanye. I respect his ear because he listens to the music that I listen to. He listens to Curtis Mayfield; he listens to Michael Jackson; he listens to Bob Marley; he listens to Roberta Flack. I know this because I’ve heard him play these records in front of me.
What are your memories of being in the studio with West?
We’ve spent hours and hours together. Kanye would always let [stic man and I] hear brand new tracks that he would make and raps that he would make. More than anything, I’m so happy to know that that can happen today because sometimes artists feel like they are on their own island and they are isolated and nobody is in their lane. A lot of people don’t know, but Kanye produced “Still Bigger Than Hip-Hop,” which was the remix on our first album Let’s Get Free (2000). I have to remind people that that’s how far back I’ve been a fan of what he does.
Are you looking forward to hearing West’s new album, Yeezus?
Yes…I think Kanye always pushes the envelope when it comes to the style of his music. He’s always pushing himself to find that place. I love his unquenched, eternal search for who he is no matter how egotistical it may be.
Indeed, where would Kanye be without his ego?
Well, we all have an ego. I just respect his drive to share that skin and new layer.
Can we talk about new music? What are you currently working on?
Definitely look out for the new A-Alikes single “Whole Life”…that’s a really good single and video. They (Ness and K) are RBG family, so look out for that. And there’s an album coming out called The Midnight Man that I did with Brian Jackson who’s the partner for Gil Scott-Heron. It’s a tribute album to Gil Scott. He is everything to dead prez. He taught us how to combine sharp wit and criticism around with being politically astute. I started working on that with him before he passed. The first single is slated to be released in about two weeks and it’s called “Hold On.” The album features eight songs from me, two songs from dead prez, one from Nas, one from Killah Priest, and more.
Wow, that sounds inspiring. How does it feel being connected to such an icon like Gil Scott-Heron?
I jumped at the opportunity to do it. I would have done it before hand but I was waiting in line. This is a good record. All the original Midnight Band stuff that Brian brought with Gil-Scott is there, but revamped. We are playing a few jazz festivals as well—the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Jazz à la Villette in Paris…I’m going to be one of the frontmen for some of the best musicians that came through that jazz-soul-funk revolutionary music. I’m blessed to be working with them.