M1, as one half of the group Dead Prez, has continued to be a voice of truth and much needed honesty in music and overall within American society, which is so much dominated by the ideas and interests pushed by the 1%.
M1 consistently describes himself as being a father, husband and someone who believes in uplifting and uniting oppressed people of the world.
After many years of supporting the work done by him and his partner Stic Man and attending many of their concerts I had the chance to speak with M1.
Q: Throughout your career as an artist and part of the group, dead prez, what has been your goal with your music?
The impact that I anticipate and that I am aiming for is to do exactly that: Push to give space to create something different and new in this structure. Many people don’t have a fully scientific understanding of the nature of imperialism.
They misunderstand that the music we do is so necessary. People think- “Oh, Y’all don’t like cars. Y’all don’t wanna be rich.” This is total misunderstanding of what we mean. We don’t mean to push back against brothers and sisters who have been indoctrinated and push what imperialism represents on a individual level.
Naturally, people aren’t going to understand without a deeper understanding. Our overall goal is to murder the system.
Q: With more people becoming aware of the constant war that Black people, in particular, face in this country what role do you see your music playing in this? Putting out your image that you are a father and have a family and wife?
What you try to put out there definitely has that kind of impact. We have to prioritize the things that are important. That is the fun in life. The order of operations.
You put your family high on the priority list. The role of the family is to create.
That helps you have a better decision making process in life. When you are faced with decisions, faced with making a decision, you do it based on your priorities. Such as I hear many popular artists using the term MOB (Money Over Bit$#s).
This is a choice and you are placing this as a priority. What it does is put materialism as a priority over our women. I don’t agree with that. We have to put our women over material things and not sell them off over anything.
Q: You and Stic Man of dead prez have played a critical role in being spokespersons and advocates for real campaigns and for political prisoners such as Mumia Abu Jamal who is a journalist and has been in prison for 34 years. Why is this important?
First of all I want to give an update.
These days Mumia’s not doing so well. He had a bout fighting with a diabetic coma recently. He needed to go to the hospital and has not been receiving treatment.
The update is that he has hepatitis C which is a curable illness, but he has been denied treatment. His denial of treatment has resulted in him losing 25 lbs. He’s looking smaller than he’s ever looked but still they can’t defeat his spirit no matter what. His skin is blackened by this illness. His nails have been falling off.
He is in a bad condition and what he needs immediately is care from a proper facility to treat hepatitis c which is a curable illness. Why I can talk about Mumia in that kind of way is because our unsung heroes fought and gave minutes seconds hours years and even their lives like Hugo Yogi Pinell who recently passed.
The reason why is because they gave us so much. These people need to be awarded. That’s why I always remember and hail up the names of those who are our unsung heroes.
Q: What are some possibilities you believe are effective which people could use in their lives to resist against this war by police and this system?
These days on the top of our list has to be martial arts self-defense. Marital arts isn’t just some old Asian thing. There are many ways to study martial arts. You can study armed or unarmed. You can study martial arts which deals with combat or non-combat.
And then you have to know your rights. Know what their law says. So that you know how to get untangled from it. Know what to say or not to say. These I would say are my top two things people can do.
Q: One of the many projects you have worked on was with Deejay Child –the Revolutionary Culture albums. What is revolutionary culture?
It is a tool of the African liberation movement to spread propaganda and measure the political ideas being talked about making revolution possible in the world. It lets social scientists like myself see who are really soaking up the music and saying the lyrics. Also knowing how to approach those who might not be open to it.
Q: Another project you and Child worked on together was a tribute to Gil Scott Heron – Revolutionary Suicide.
Gil Scott has been a voice for our people like almost none other has. The Last Poets, Nina Simone, Pete Tosh, Amiri Baraka are among those who compose a beautiful small group of people. Gil Scott was one of those.
Q: I’ve always felt a lot of different emotions when listening to your music. Like you really push the listener to engage with the music. On the Gil Scott Tribute album you speak on not only Gil Scott’s music but you go deep into his life. You speak on addiction and his struggle with addiction.
There’s no secret that he battled with addiction with certain narcotics, and that’s not anything new to our community. Most of us grew up around it. My mother dealt with it and my brother and aunt. Our family gets tore apart by these addictions. I wanted to be able to put it out there in a way that makes people identify. Like he was a victim. He was a victim of the system. He was a really feeling person. He was a writer also. I wanted people to understand the depth of what society and addiction is.
Q: How is addiction used to control people today? Is there a connection between legal and illegal drugs?
This is an addictive society. What is put out there is the psychological warfare that makes it easy and makes the ground fertile to the idea that you can ease your anxiety to the way that this American society is working is to self-medicate.
We learn to avoid the system to turn it a little bit. The way Kanye said in his recent speech “take the edge off.” For me I think that this is where the criminal part of it comes in. This is where this system, the state holds the brunt of the responsibility. That’s not to take the responsibility off what we do personally. Addiction has swarmed our community the way it is.
Is it that we are more prone to use drugs?
No. It’s that we are more oppressed, and the ground is more fertile. There are plenty of white people who are addicted to different drugs. It stems from a different fear. Ruling class people are being diagnosed. They are going to psychiatrists. Getting diagnosed with pills in fear of the future.
At the end of the day, is there a difference between the pharmaceuticals and what’s on the streets?
There is no difference at all. One is made legal, and one is made illegal. If you follow the money trail they are benefitting the same companies the same corporations.
Q: On a recent track (Killuminati) you did with Mac Mall on his new album Legal Business in one of your lyrics you say “My weapon is my pen” and that you’re aiming it at police, marines, air force and others who represent what you call a culture of violence. Can you break down what you meant by this?
That is an amazing song. Mac Mall’s an amazing brother I respect him, Vallejo and the long rich history of hip-hop in the bay area.
It was an honor to do the song. When he brought the song I heard the lyrics talking about the illuminati and knowing how people are kinda caught up in the illuminati thing. Being tricked and not really getting the concept of how it’s connected with the culture of violence.
Not seeing how it’s connected to being detrimental to our people. They kind of turned it into a game of who’s who in a puzzle. This is something which has been built up for a long time as a structure.
Q: Can you speak on Young Malcolm (Malcolm X’s Grandson) and your relationship with him?
He was the first male grandson of Malcolm X. El Hajj Malik Shabazz. One of Malcolm X’s daughters had a son- Malcolm Latif Shabazz. From his birth he was burdened with a lot.
He was partly convicted of starting a fire which consequently took his grandmothers life (Malcolm’s wife Betty Shabazz). His life being filled with so much pressure even with the legacy Malcolm X’s daughters had carried on being passed down to him. He came up in New York and when we met and he was identifying as Mecca not as Malcolm because of the stigma.
When he first got out of prison he came to Houston where I was living with my family. He was living in two different worlds. He was both a devout Sunni Muslim and also living the world of somebody who was from the streets. He learned a lot and he was on a hell of a journey that was a whirlwind of trying to understand.
I tried to help him through his own misunderstanding of himself and the world. We just shared a lot. I was able to be there for him. It was bigger than us, bigger than him. I know the creator put me in this position. One of the places that I live and also call home is Miami Florida. He also came here after Houston Texas.
We were trying to help him to complete his writings, his books and complete his growth. Malcolm got cut short some years ago in Mexico. Circumstances are clear to me but unknown to most people because he died in a very violent way. I think what he means and has meant is yet to be told.
Q: I’ve always felt a sense of accountability from you, as an artist, as a man, and as a father having dignity and discipline. How have you been able to maintain your beliefs and continue to grow in the industry which views those things as a threat because they are not based on making a profit?
It wasn’t easy. You have to see yourself as the spook who sat by the door. If anybody has ever seen the movie or read the book written by Sam Greenly RIP. It tells the story of those of us who know the system well enough to navigate through it.
We knew as Dead Prez we needed to get to the system. The music industry aspect of it.
We had become producers and we had enough unique talent that we could come to people in the industry in order to get exposure for our movement on the ideas that our peers were talking about. The Snoop Dogg’s, the Tupac’s, Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang’s hip hop was speaking to the mind and defined everything we thought and believed in.
We felt if we could put revolutionary ideas in the midst of that, we could really say and do what we wanted to do in our communities. If those ideas were present then we could build up.
M-1 of Dead Prez will be performing at The Black Media Appreciation Night on Saturday, Sept. 12, Reception is at 6 p.m. and, 7 p.m. program, at the African and African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St. at Webster, San Francisco.