I recently interviewed member of the political activist group Dead Prez’s Stic.man and got a chance to speak with him about the origins of Dead Prez. It’s been sixteen years since Dead Prez released their classic debut album “Lets Get Free.” We got an opportunity to speak about his solo projects, his work in the community, and his holistic lifestyle. I was most impressed with his positive attitude on life and creativity. In addition to being a great emcee, he is a published author, and is always setting the bar for creativity with new and exciting projects.
Interview with Stic.Man
Ryan Glover: When did you guys officially become a group?
Not until the early 90s. My friend M-1 was going to Florida A&M University which is in my hometown. I just used to be a local hanging around on the campus getting into shit and I met him and we became friends and we had a lot in common and we were both interested in political activism so we started doing that for some years and in that we realized doing music was a way we could be more active and more relevant and make more of an impact.
You kind of came up in an era when information wasn’t accessible like it is now, who do you credit in your life to putting you on to knowledge of self, Pan-Africanism?
One of my teachers challenged me to write something for Black History month, it was the first ever Black History assembly at our school, that’s how racist the school was. She gave me these books and I wrote a verse and I end up getting kicked out of school for the song I wrote but the community kind of adopted me. The churches, the black psychology department, and whole community started giving me jewels about our culture and struggle.
When you were creating Lets Get Free what was the experience like creating such a classic album?
It was all of our experiences up to that point, life ideas getting to come into fruition. We worked with a lot of our friends from childhood that worked on the production and I did a lot of the production. We were just trying to tell our story and were just passionate about it as young revolutionary teenagers.
Are you upset that some black organizations haven’t necessarily been supportive of your message? Or do you feel you were supported properly in those communities?
Yeah, I feel like we continue to get great support, we been around the world bro. Our music has been used by major films, documentaries, I just left the White House like a few weeks ago. We been everywhere Cuba, Africa, nothing but love.
Do you believe your message was ahead of its time?
No, I believe we late. I believe we way behind the curve. Freedom is number one. It ain’t like it’s never to early for freedom. Every generation I guess has to be woken up to that and recommit to liberation on every level.
One of my favorite songs on Lets Get Free was “They Schools”, what was your intent when you created that song and do you feel it coincided with how it was perceived?
Yep. Our intent was to express how we were feeling in school. We knew people would resonate with it who was going through what we had gone through and were feeling how we was feeling. We made it raw intentionally, not so much disrespect but we were teenagers so you know how that is but more so just to characterize the language in the way you feel when your disenfranchised or disconnected from the school system. Thats the effect we wanted to have, how raw it was.
Do you wish you had done the interview on Fox News instead of M1 or that you guys did the interview as a group?
No. I don’t even know what interview your talking about. M-1 is a great spokesman and he speaks on his own behalf. We have a lot in common but we see things uniquely as well. When M-1 has an interview your going to get a certain political analysis and insight where I tend to more focus on the personal and inner self work, more everyday stuff. It’s a good balance when we can chop it up together.
You guys have a collaborative album with the Outlaws called Cant Sell Dope Forever, how did that album come about?
Thats the homies. We always had great respect for Tupac and the Outlawz. We got a chance to meet thru the years and we always felt like we had a kindred mission and if we had got to know Pac at the time the Outlawz always said we would’ve been part of the Outlawz. We just as family wanted to come together at that time and make a statement musically to speak to the streets with voices that they respect with a message that needs to be felt so that we could not get caught up in the prison pipeline and the whole selling dope is the only option that we have. The young shit that we all got caught up in. We felt like we had a voice and a message to make a lot of brothers think differently.
One of my favorite songs from Cant Sell Dope Forever was “I Believe,” can you speak a little bit about the creative process behind that song and the music video?
The song was something I produced and cooked up. I was trying to write a positive theme for my brother who had been on drugs for a while but also inspire him on what I would like him to say to himself and anybody that is dealing with addictions in certain ways. It’s a theme song for a comeback and even my own struggles with alcohol, weed, and stuff like that. It was just about claiming your victory over those things and making the music was just something I did in my basement studio. My boy James Wade who directed the video he was in town and we actually did three videos that weekend on the spot. I had the idea to do something that was cost effective but still tell the story. I always liked Rocky because it’s a real inspiring movie so I do martial arts and I just threw my sweats on and said “I’m gone take you with me where I be working out and where I get my herb, shit like that” and just filmed it and just caught the lifestyle.
How did you guys end up on Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and how did Bigger than Hip Hop end up being the theme song of the Chappelle show?
So we met Dave before he was a popular comedian. He might of been in that movie Half Baked maybe by then but he just used to come to our shows with mutual homies and liked our music. He likes music a lot. We would just see him and he was a funny dude and one day he was like I’m gonna get me a show and I wanna come out to that song, and we was like cool. Everybody got dreams and whatever so we was like cool, he got a show and he used the song and did his thing and blew up and everybody appreciated what he brings to comedy and just the intellect and dignity at the same time being a new kind of funny, not like the old school preacher kind of comedians but more reserved and intellectually funny. Then he blew up and like I said he loves music and has a lot of music friends and that was the Block Party he wanted to showcase that and connect comedy with something to say and we had opened the show and for years and we had been touring with The Roots and all the different groups on the Block Party so it was a family affair.
Were you ever enticed to become a more mainstream rapper in hopes of acquiring a broader fanbase?
Well, I always felt like we are mainstream. Most of the people on the planet don’t have a Bentley most of the people don’t have a lot of the superficial things that you hear about on the radio a lot. So we always took the position we are the mainstream, we the majority and thats why til this day we tour around the world, every continent, and every country. The people that are on the ground, the everyday person, all walks of life, all cultures, all races found something in our music that was genuine. If we weren’t mainstream we wouldn’t be connected with a worldwide market. I think people confuse the American radio with the planet and thats a small percentage of people, that mentality.
A lot of artists actively campaigned for Presidential candidates in the recent election, what are your feelings about artists being part of the establishment as opposed to challenging it?
I think we have a duty to kind of do both. And when I say being a part of the establishment, I don’t mean joining forces with oppression but I mean attempting to work in different positions to do good for the community. We have a duty if we want to see a better world to do what we can to make that a reality. I think we also have a duty to challenge the system because as artists we have a good platform to expose things and people listen to creative people. You can’t just be an artist, you have to be a student of whats really going on if your going to open your mouth about it.
Is their a strong homosexual influence in the music industry on the higher levels? As far as do you have to do homosexual acts to get on or is that a big myth?
(Laughs) Thats a wild one right there. People actually believe that though, which is really interesting. People believe that there are doors you go through you make a deal to be a homosexual or just whatever right. People do all kind of stuff but what I wanna say is hard work is what success is made of. You have to be sharp on every area of your hustle, art, your career and some people sharp and some people are not. It’s easy for people who ain’t there and look up and say they just a devil worshiper, people make up all kind of stuff. You famous, so you Illuminati. It’s all this mythology because some people are in a position and some people are not. But at the end of the day it’s not a mystery, people have made choices and got excellent at something and they built great teams and executed their vision whether it was good, evil, bad, right, wrong, left, it don’t matter they organized themselves and executed what it is that they wanted to do and that’s the only thing that separates anybody else from being in a position; the execution of what they want to do and the right team. I don’t really buy into all of that not to say their aren’t people in all walks of life with evil intentions, you can go to the projects and find people doing juju (laughs). You can go to the Queen of England and find them doing stuff and its pedophilia everywhere and whatever. Specifically the homosexual mythology about the game I don’t really see that as a secret. I feel like homosexuality is very popular right now and people that are homosexual have been in positions of power in the film industry and fashion industry for a long time. People act like it’s a secret that’s happening but I think its pretty obvious.
Can you speak about the work in the community you’ve done in order to make the views you’ve expressed in your music come to fruition?
I definitely been involved with a lot of grassroots campaigns throughout the years from prison rights, bringing people home that have been locked up unjustly, Fred Hampton Jr’s son and other political prisoners. Since the early years leafleting, food drives, feeding the people in the community, assisting homeless people, providing security at events, and standing in solidarity with a lot of different cultures like Native Americans and Standing Rock, the sovereignty in New Zealand and we’ve united with the Palestinian cause.
What is RBG Fit Club?
So thats another form of activism where I felt health is a very important aspect of living that is often overlooked in the political circle of activism and I felt its a unified focus that everybody can relate to health in black and brown communities especially we have a lot of high diet and stress related diseases that we deal with. So RBG Fit Club is a movement that brings holistic health into more people lives. We use a hip hop culture element to make it relevant and relate. Essentially holistic health is all aspects of your being including your mind, your emotions, your spirit, your body, your neighborhood, your relationships, social systems, the environment, the planet, all of that in harmony and sustainable. We teach different things as it relates to living that from a hip hop perspective.
Do you have any regrets or just things you would have done differently with what you know now?
I wouldn’t phrase it as a regret but I try to practice acceptance and do my best in these moments. I will say that my mentality isn’t the same as when I was a teenager as I am now in my early 40’s. In hindsight choices I’ve made in the streets and my career as you gain wisdom you can see the short sightedness of certain things and you just have to go forward and grow from it.
Are their plans for another Dead Prez project or Stic.man solo project in the future?
With Dead Prez we live in different cities now and my partner M-1 has a lot of great things he’s doing musically for television and also activism. So when were in the same place long enough for that magic to happen. I am working on the “Workout II” a follow up to my last solo album and I just finished scoring 19 online classes with Master teachers Travis Elliott and Lauren Eckstrom. Me and my son whose 15 now is a up and coming producer we work together on the music for a program which is called Yoga 30 for 30 and its thirty minutes of a yoga a day for thirty days and we created a new soundtrack to go along with the classes and the sound we created we call it Trapscedental. So its like trap music but its yoga influenced, ambient type of vibes on top. So before the end of the year that’ll be out online and being promoted. I just been doing creative things like that and I live with my wife Afya who is a nutritionist and author. We do speaking events and workshops and things of that nature. We got a lot of events coming up. I’m just trying to stay holistic.