It makes sense Dead Prez are in town for the UO “Social Justice, Real Justice Conference.” The New York-based hip-hop group has long taken on politics in its work; themes of socialism and social justice, protest of corporate control of the media (particularly hip-hop record labels) and pan-Africanism have been threads running through the group since they began in the late ’90s.
“Animal in Man” from Dead Prez’ critically acclaimed debut, Let’s Get Free (2000), retells George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The group contributed to the 2002 Red Hot + Riot compilation (proceeds benefiting AIDS charities), and the title of their 2004 release, RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta, captures the group’s ethos perfectly.
Musically, Dead Prez mix ’90s era gangsta rap, “conscious” hip-hop a la Talib Kweli and post-Outkast pop hooks. With 2012’s Information Age, Dead Prez show some signs of softening up, mixing a kind of new age-y vibe to their usual insurgency (like the album’s roughly Photoshopped Buddha over a glowering Uncle Sam). This leads to a few lyrical clinkers: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know/ And if you don’t know there’s more you can know, then you won’t grow.”
On Saturday, Feb. 16, Dead Prez get back to what they do best — tackling social issues. M-1 will be taking part in the Cultural Resistance panel and the workshop “Hip Hop and the History of the Black Panther Party,” and the duo’s other half, stic.man, will be participating in the “Raw Foods and Health” workshop. For more information, visit http://wkly.ws/1ez
Dead Prez perform with Rocky Rivera 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 16, at WOW Hall; all conference events are free.