Dead Prez and The Outlawz - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

The Audio-Political Methadone

August 2006

Music is the immortal narcotic. Like any drug, music can both help and harm. The various additive forms of music intoxicate the listeners in a myriad of ways. The Rolling Stones created cocaine rock and roll. Paul's Boutique by The Beastie Boys and "Yes Please" by The Happy Mondays are angel dust masterpieces. Pills, Thrills, N Bellyaches by Happy Mondays is a musical ecstasy trip. Musical psychedelic acid trips can be experienced on albums like Love's Secret Domain by Coil and Towards The Infinite Beat by Psychic TV. Musical heroin of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3 will turn listeners into junkies. Hip-hop music is one of the most powerful drugs today. While some hip-hop albums promote selling and experiencing drugs, Dead Prez and Outlawz have just created a musical methadone to help us in recovery. Regardless of the style or genre, music lovers are always looking for the next big "hit".

During the 70's, a socially conscious message about drugs were evident in Soul, Funk, and R&B. Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack to the film, "Superfly" was misinterpreted by many people. Mayfield used this revolutionary album to depict the negative aspects of cocaine. This message was lost within the film. These socially conscious messages have been passed down through generations through music. As music evolved, hip-hop culture utilized these themes. Emcees rhymed about the drug situation as producers sampled the actual music.

Rooted in the spirit of revolution, hip-hop is the most assorted form of drug music. Since the golden era of hip-hop, cocaine and heroin has been an essential aspect of the culture. The juggernaut assault of crack cocaine and heroin has played two functions. While many artists rhyme about how crack cocaine and heroin have crippled families and the communities, other artists brag about selling or using drugs. Some people think that hip-hop glamorizes drug dealing, but others suggest that hip-hop provides an honest portrait of the dangerous lifestyle. Will listeners be tempted by the fast money, danger, and power? Will they be terrified of the prospect of getting killed or arrested? The diverse culture of hip-hop provides multiple outlooks. This delicate balance between responsibility and temptation adds to hip-hop's multifaceted dynamic.

Dead Prez and Outlawz are two revolutionary hip-hop groups who have just created a legendary collaboration project. Released by Affluent Records, the Can't Sell Dope Forever LP by Dead Prez & Outlawz is musical methadone for the junkies who are addicted to the drug culture. Whether dealing or using, listeners can be considered fiends in multiple ways. A fiend can be addicted to the money, lifestyle, power, danger, or the actual narcotic. These two hip-hop groups created this album to inspire people. The music was made for the listener to wake up, grow up, and own up to their actions. Listeners will not hear a soft hippie style or label the music "positive". Dead Prez and Outlawz are hardcore in their expressive nature and their purpose to promote change.

Hailing from California, Outlawz were started by the revolutionary emcee, Tupac Shakur (2Pac). Although revolution is a major element of the group's foundation, Outlawz are a well-rounded hip-hop group. They explore multiple themes and styles. After a plethora of tragedies and changes, Outlawz have maintained a loyal fan base and continue to evolve.

Dead Prez were originally considered the Public Enemy of the new millennium. Their debut album, "Let's Get Free" (Loud Records) was a powerfully insightful collection of rousing songs. The song, "They Schools" was a brutal look at the racism in America's education system. "Be Healthy" was inspirational track about the importance of nutrition. Their main single, "Hip Hop" was an enlightening anthem for their People's Army that offered listeners a new viewpoint on the power of music. After a sophomore album and some mix-tapes, Dead Prez pursued solo careers. Although the group is still together, M-1 released his solo "Confidential" LP and wrote a book titled, The Art of Emcee-ing. In every diverse action, M-1 and use their art to uplift their community and inspire change.

The collaboration effort between Dead Prez and Outlawz is a legendary event in hip-hop. Long after the nonsense of the moronic East Coast/West Coast war, these two groups linked up from opposite ends of the country. Can't Sell Dope Forever must be heard by any person who is struggling with addiction or caught up in the drug culture. Like a narcotic, the drug lifestyle is painfully hard to renounce. Like methadone, the Can't Sell Dope Forever LP ameliorates people during in this transition. The songs offer insight and wisdom to inspire maturity and achievement. The poignant track, "Like A Window" offers an honest depiction of how heroin damaged's family. "Believe" is an anthem for the person who wants to overcome any obstacle, especially drugs. "U Ain't The Only One" reminds the listeners that many people who share the same pain. Production is handled by, EDI Don, M1, Chuck P, Eddie Coldfingers, and Tai Rotan. Guests include Layzie Bone (from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) and Ms. Nora ('s mother). Can't Sell Dope Forever is a landmark album, essential for hip-hop listeners and those in recovery.

On a brutally humid weekday afternoon in July 2006, I spoke to, Young Noble, and Stormey. Although from different corners of America, all three of them share the same pain from struggle. They have fought similar battles. Their struggle is universal. Young Noble and Stormey (from Outlawz) work with (Dead Prez) as if they have been brothers all of their lives. The encouraging solidarity adds to the glory of hip-hop culture.

As a nation, we cannot sell dope forever, but we can rely on music to help us through life.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Young Noble: One nation. Shit, working hard, baby!

MVRemix: Both Dead Prez and Outlawz just released a collaboration album, 'Can't Sell Dope Forever'. How did this come about? Let's see. It came about because America put us in a condition in our community of slavery. They let us be here, to be the bottom of society without no resources and no reparations. So, you got communities of people who are starving. They are starving for resources and starving for information. They are starving from community control of our own lives. C.I.A. and the F.B.I. brought the dope into our communities and gave us some options to make a little money and take care of certain things that were going down. Then, we got locked up. Then, we got fiend out. We are all trying to get over that hump, over that planet rock that hit us in the 80's. Now, you got n*ggas that are hit with the laws of communities. They're in the game. Now, we can't sell dope forever. We're not just talking to the people on the corners, scape goating young n*ggas, saying, 'Can't sell dope forever'. We're talking to the system and we're talking to the rap industry. We're saying, 'You can't sell dope forever! You can't keep selling us that bullsh*t forever.' Our people are going to wake up, going to boss up. That's how it came about, from the start.

MVRemix: Some people think that hip-hop music perpetuates the drug dealing mentality while others think that it inspires people to change or make money in a more positive way. What's your opinion?

Young Noble: As far as the music, when dudes rap about what they rap about, it's one thing. We, as individuals, we are just taking responsibility for this music. We are standing up and being men. We are blessed to even have the nuts to come out with a CD called, 'Can't Sell Dope Forever'. Nobody would do some sh*t like that. As far as I could remember, only N.W.A. would probably do some sh*t like that, as real as the message is. As far as music goes, music has been good for us. It's given us an avenue for our voice to be heard and get money. This rap sh*t is feeding a lot of muthaf*ckas, man. It's feeding a lot of n*ggas, a lot of white folks, and a lot of every damn body. This music is our voice. We just have to use it more seriously. I feel that a lot of dudes may not have the information, or whatever the case may be. As far as us, we're just trying to step up and bring balance to the game. This music is a beautiful for thing for us, by all means.

>>> continued...

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"We are standing up and being men. We are blessed to even have the nuts to come out with a CD called, Can't Sell Dope Forever'. Nobody would do some sh*t like that."