At 11 o' clock on Friday night, this middle class white girl dragged her tired body away from a P.F. Chang's frozen dinner and Groundhog Day on Netflix to go to a Dead Prez show at the Red Fox Tavern. In an effort to disguise my whiteness, I put on the one trendy outfit I own and poofed my hair up, a la Jersey Shore.
The venue was packed with people squinting in the red lights and shouting over vibrating beats. I engaged in my own screaming conversation, all the while hoping that the music wouldn't stop suddenly and catch me in a quiet room yelling things like "I'm sweaty!" or "I feel like I'm in Save the Last Dance!"
The show began with an opener, RBL Posse (that's short for Ruthless by Law), followed by 45 minutes of Dead Prez's DJ, MC Mic Flow. At around midnight the attention of the room turned toward Dead Prez as they entered the stage and called out, "Turn off the Radio!" The crowd migrated to the stage and strangers united in one common response: "Turn off that bullshit!" In between songs, the band asked the audience questions: "Where my soldiers at?" "Who wants a revolution?" Fists were elevated and I even raised mine, though I've never had to endure the sort of oppression that warrants the right to call myself a soldier.
They moved through each song, singing about change then pausing to challenge the audience. The chorus of one song was repeated over and over and seemed to epitomize their general message: "If I get wasted and you get wasted, what we gonna do about the next generation?" After, band member stic.man looked out across a smoky room and proudly announced that he is celebrating two years of no smoking or drinking. He then performed a song off of his new album, which is strictly about physical fitness, and encouraged the audience to be healthy.
Dead Prez's music doesn't get played on the radio. They are often written off as angry and defiant, but all I heard were messages of self-discipline and taking responsibility for your own actions. This is hip hop music that would make your mother proud. As the show ended, I joined the crowd trickling out, sweaty, inspired and certain of one thing: The Dead Prez experience is much bigger than hip hop.