With the arrival of 'Lets Get Free,' I've been thinking of Public Enemy's impact on political rap. While there's no doubting the excellence of their music, perhaps the fact that the beats, rhymes and message were all so astoundingly powerful that they had a negative effect on future political rap groups. If the music doesn't live up to PE, their message is dismissed; if the message seems poorly thought out or unfocused, people will criticize the music. While dead prez (no caps) won't be making you burn 'It Takes A Nation...' anytime soon, 'Lets Get Free' is an admirable effort that doesn't lack in any essential area.
Without using any adventurous flows or mind-bending wordplay, MCs M1 and stic.man do fine performances on the mic, mostly due to their lyrical substance. The two boys don't drop empty bragging rhymes or mindless thug lyrics, just focused raps on issues they deem important. Flow-wise they don't change up much, except on the first single 'Hip-Hop' and the slightly better remix 'Its Bigger Than Hip-Hop,' where the duo experiment with a double time flow. The only other break from dead prez' relentless rhymes comes on 'You'll Find A Way' a nicely inspirational instrumental jazz piece.
And to the magical political content. Backed by harsh yet subtle beats (consistently dope throughout 'Lets Get Free') come challenging ideals, with each song presenting either a new view on their old topic or throwing a new idea into the mix. The momentum is kept up for most of the album, with only a few mis-steps here and there. The group are ready to attack everything to get their message across, from the policing of society ('Police State') to the prison system ('Behind Enemy Lines') to the mainstream media's twisting of the truth ('Propaganda') to the ineptness of the school system ('They Schools') and everything else in between.
It would be easy to look at this as a purely negative album, but many of the cuts also show a more positive side of dead prez. Black pride is fully shown on 'Im A African,' useful dietary advice is dished out on 'Be Healthy' and 'Psychology' advocates mental discipline as a way of protecting yourself. Most of these tracks are written from the familiar perspective of an angry black man helping out his brothers; the only notable change from this formula is 'Animal in Man.' Using a similar analogy to Orwell's classic 'Animal Farm,' dead prez flip the storyline to show the power of rebellion, creating an impressive cut.
While it doesn't grab you immediately, after spending a bit of time with 'Lets Get Free' you'll realize what an exceptional album it is. That an incredible LP such as this has come from a pair of mediocre MCs and a decent production team is a testament to the determination of M1 and stic.man to create a record of this caliber. 'Lets Get Free' is a brilliant debut and, although not entirely political, a bold step towards the resurgence on consciousness on major label rap albums.