Overtly politicized rap usually falls flat in a very specific way. After railing against government and public schools, which are rightly understood as mechanisms to keep dispossessed socio-economic segments of a population in place, there’s no solution proffered and no real action taken. “Behind Enemy Lines,” a track from the Dead Prez’ 2000 debut “Let’s Get Free,” goes so far as to date Fred Hampton’s assassination and explain why he became a target. Talking only goes so far, though. While Dead Prez never holed up in some radical’s safe house, M-1, one of the group’s two MCs, has worked in a variety of ways to better the lives of politically oppressed peoples. When not engaged with political activities, M-1’s gone and issued a handful of solo works. That was five years ago and with the pending release of Dead Prez’ “Information Age,” it’s surprising only half the group’s set to perform at Reggies. What M-1 and Dead Prez have done over time, though, is attempt the assimilation of popular production techniques in order to make message music more palatable to a general populace. What the avant-garde and politicos on the left have always had trouble with is engaging the downtrodden, who more often than not want entertainment from music, not a history lesson. Releasing a string of mixtapes instead of a proper album since 2004 feels haphazard, but that might mean the duo’s been culling top-shelf material for something like seven years. Surely, Dead Prez missed an opportunity to stick it to Bush, but if the new album continues on in a similar fashion as early career efforts, Obama’s missteps should be examined in genuine fashion. If not, M-1’s missed the point of revolutionary politics. (Dave Cantor)
June 24 at Reggies Music Joint, 2105 South State, (312)949-0120. 8pm. $12-$15.