Stic.Man (of Dead Prez) Interview
|Artist:||Stic.Man (of Dead Prez)|
|Label:||Boss Up Inc.|
|Next Project:||Manhood (Available Now)|
|Website:||Stic.Man (of Dead Prez)'s Website|
The foundation of Hip Hop was birthed by artists who chose to speak the raw and unfiltered truths of urban America. While you wouldn’t know it by turning on the radio today, proponents of honesty and diversity through politically conscious rap do exist.
One of those proponents is Stic.Man; half of the internationally successful duo, Dead Prez. Known for their educational and cognizant speech, the duo has released two critically acclaimed albums that include their debut masterpiece, “Let’s Get Free.”
As the world has awaited a follow-up to the last album, “Revolutionary But Gangsta,” both members decided to release solo debuts. Following partner M1’s successful solo project, “Confidential,” Stic.Man has released the lyrically-introspective and diverse, “Manhood.”
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Stic.Man steps inside the booth to talk about the definition of “Manhood,” why Hip Hop artists are afraid to rap about politics, and how his travels to Africa lead to him authoring and publishing a book.
Listen to the Interview
Stic.Man (of Dead Prez) Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one half of the internationally successful and highly respected rap duo, Dead Prez. Please welcome Stic.Man – how you doin’?
Stic.Man: Excellent, man – what about you?
DJ Booth: Man, I’m just tryin’ to get all my holiday preparations done. How are you doin’ on yours?
Stic.Man: Hey man, every day is a grind day on my side.
DJ Booth: What are you looking forward to most this holiday season in terms of gifts? So, your family – what might they not know that you really secretly want, but you’re hoping for?
Stic.Man: On the foundation that I come from, this whole Thanksgiving and Christmas time is really irrelevant to my customs and traditions. Thanksgiving was founded on the slaying of the red man and the taking of his land – I don’t prescribe to the Christian religion, so the Christmas thing don’t really work. But, at the same time, I definitely recognize that a lot of people spend time with family, and for most people it’s just a time that you ain’t gotta go to work, you get a chance to be around people you love, so I’m definitely all about that, year-round. That’s the gift I’m lookin’ for, is some quality time with my folks.
DJ Booth: Certainly. I think a nice gift for you would be that your new album, “Manhood,” starts flyin’ off shelves and sells online. Let’s talk about it – what does this project signify in terms of your maturation as an artist?
Stic.Man: “Manhood” is my first solo album. I started out being a rapper, before I met my partner, M-1, but I never released anything as a solo artist until now. It was done independently [and] I am proud of being able to walk in those Marcus Garvey footsteps and do something myself and not rely on the industry to sustain me. I’ve been able to put it out independently, have international and national distribution for it through my company, Boss Up, Inc. It’s definitely in terms of behind the scenes it’s maturation for me. Musically, it’s, my soul roots, my love for jazz, my love for real hip hop, my love for lyrics and melody – I got a chance to explore different textures and different things that I like about music. You got a lot of African traditional, you got ATL funk, we got that G-Funk. We got all types of music that I’ve been influenced by, I was able to put together for “Manhood.” And then the content is dealin’ with my manhood, and how I’m at that stage of my life.
DJ Booth: Let’s get into that a little bit more. On your Myspace page you posed the question, “What is your definition of manhood?” To me, it’s an understanding of one’s responsibilities and doing whatever is necessary – within the law, of course – to follow through on them. So now your turn – your definition of manhood.
Stic.Man: I would agree with you, and say, regardless of the law. [laughter]
DJ Booth: Okay, so no matter what.
Stic.Man: I mean, depending on whose law it is. In our community manhood is something that we go out and search for, because we’re an oppressed community, and our manhood is illegal. Bein’ men in the hood is illegal. When you stand up for your rights, when you try to take care of your family, there’s so many system and bureaucratic things to oppress, exploit, and deny people the opportunity to be free. When I say manhood, I don’t mean to say “malehood,” I mean “humanhood,” adulthood; that’s where we at with it. Two words – it’s “man” and it’s “hood.” You know, “hood” is where you’re from, what’s your foundation, people, community, network, and the “man” is in the physical, within that. And you can’t have one without the other.
DJ Booth: Definitely, I agree. It’s interesting, you said bureaucratic things, and I think “things” was probably the PC way of you putting “BS,” am I right?
Stic.Man: [laughter] For sure.
DJ Booth: Just clarifying that. Let’s talk about the cover of your new album, because the wardrobe’s totally retro, you’re takin’ it back, Saturday Night Fever era. Is that a way of saying that this album is kind of taking it back-
Stic.Man: We chose the cover as a tribute to the music from then, There were lead singers and artists, like in the ‘70s, who had equal style and equal substance – people like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, even Al Green. People the people that I was influenced by in my household, just the whole swagger of, you’re definitely gettin’ the impression of: “Hey, I’m a man, I’m gonna rock this, I’m gonna express myself, I’m gonna show some confidence,” et cetera. But, the content brothers, with like the Superfly soundtrack and, “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Eddie You Should Know Better,” and “What’s Goin’ On,” and all of this was equal and balanced to their style and their fly-ness. It was a tribute. Some of the sound on the album is retro. I just thought it was cool, and it’s been getting a lot of feedback, so it must have been a good move.
DJ Booth: It works – not everybody can do that open-collared look, so you got it. Let’s move on. Your Recording partner, M-1, released his solo debut, “Confidential,” last year. This year, it’s your turn. Describe the different between working as a duo, and working solo.
Stic.Man: Aw, man, working solo’s a lot more work! [laughter] I guess the major difference between the two – when me and M-1 work together, we can pull out the raw, the underground, and the political vibe. That’s kind of what we have in common, so that’s kinda where we meet at, in the middle. When I’m able to just create for myself, it’s a lot of the same thing, ‘cause I bring that to the table as well, but it’s also – I’ve been with my lady for fourteen years. I got a family, I got other kind of experiences just as an individual that I’m able to talk about and that I feel is just as relevant to community as what the police is doin’. You feel me?
DJ Booth: Certainly. Now, you guys, as I said, both have done separate projects. When will the follow-up to the last Dead Prez album, “Revolutionary But Gangsta,” which you guys dropped back in ‘04, be out for the people?
Stic.Man: We don’t really put a date on it, man, because we wanna do a real good album. We feel like people deserve it; they’re supportin’ us since “Let’s Get Free,” and we’ve just been strivin’ to have something relevant to say on the best music possible, in the best way we can. However long that takes to come together, that’s how we’re gonna do it.
DJ Booth: If you’ve listened to the radio lately, I think it’s safe to say that the world might need a new Dead Prez album, so you guys might wanna get on that sooner rather than later. But let’s talk about Dead Prez for a second. One of the staples of your music is that there’s nothing you guys are afraid to say, and you don’t cater to any specific audience. Whatever you both had to say, you said it. With a presidential election just around the corner, what do you think is the most important topic that hip hop artists are simply too afraid to talk about, but needs to be said?
Stic.Man: That’s a great question. I think really is to know that as much as people can be talkin’ about “Rock the Vote,” and get involved, and if you don’t choose, you don’t have no right to complain, and all these kind of things, I think hip hop is the voice that can really say, “Listen: whoever wins, it’s the same system. It’s the same status quo that’s gonna be in place, and they’re just shiftin’ guard.” I think hip hop is afraid to say that, because what it means is, then what do we do? Where is the power? And the power is in the people, bein’ organized, and the local community groups that are tryin’ to address real issues every day, not just one day at an election. I think hip hop knows that because hip hop is a cultural movement that came in response to, “our kids don’t have nothing to do.” Our kids can’t express themselves. The main society doesn’t allow us to participate in the same ways it does the large, white majority population. So, hip hop was born from that.
DJ Booth: Your answer leads me into my next question: can the music industry actually nurture uncensored free speech, and at the same time garner record sales?
Stic.Man: Hmm. Well, if you look at the mainstream of the world –meaning the most people – most people live in poverty, most people live in oppression, in the world. There’s a small percentage of people in Europe and in the West who live luxurious lives, but most of the planet’s population, which I’ll call the mainstream, is suffering. I think most people would relate to free speech, real talk, people talkin’ about what’s really happening. And theoretically, that’s more people than can relate to the Rolex watches. I would imagine that if you really open the floodgate and talk to the masses of people, true masses of people, you should be able to sell billions of records, if that’s your goal.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Well, a way that you’ve been able to do more than that, reinvest in yourself of course, is not just to write rhymes, but you’ve also written a few books. Let’s talk about Warrior Names from Afrika, and The Art of Emcee-ing, neither of which I’ve read, but both are on my to-do list.
Stic.Man: All right, right on. Well, Warrior Names from Afrika is a quick read. It’s basically a collection of names that I put together traveling and also searching for my son’s name. In the end 1999, I was in Africa and my wife was pregnant, and I had the honor and privilege of coming up with my son’s name. Long story short, I wanted to break the cycle of the slave name I inherited from my father, who inherited it from his father, all the way back to the plantation, so this was the perfect opportunity. Dead Prez was on tour in South Africa, and I was askin’ everybody I met, “What is your name?” “What does it mean?” “What tribe are you from?” and just takin’ notes and doin’ research. I had so much information that I didn’t toss it to the side when I chose my son’s name, I kept it. I was reading Assata Shakur’s autobiography and how she got her name, and she was saying as a woman a lot of the names are flowers and daffodils and pretty as a honeysuckle, and real soft names like that. And she said, “When I was looking for an African name, I wanted a name dealing with the struggle – something liberating.”
DJ Booth: And what did you name your son?
Stic.Man: My son’s name is Etwela.
DJ Booth: What does that mean?
Stic.Man: It means, “Defend yourself,” in the language of Tswana, from Botswana.
DJ Booth: Does he know the significance behind his name?
Stic.Man: Oh, for sure, yeah. He’s a little martial artist, man, he’s been training since he was two.
DJ Booth: ‘Cause if he ever runs into any trouble, all he’s gotta do is say, “Listen – do you know what my name means?” And they’ll gonna say, “No,” and he’s say, “Okay, sit down and I’ll explain it to you, and then you’re not gonna want to mess with me.”
Stic.Man: [laughter] Exactly – you’re right, Z. I’ve been tellin’ him, “You’ve gotta grow into it,” you know, it’s a life-long process.
DJ Booth: Talk about The Art of Emcee-ing also quickly.
Stic.Man: In a nutshell, that’s my second book; it’s like 112 pages. Tips for Emcees, songwriters, poets, and just writers in general about being an Emcee, formulating your rhymes, getting over writers’ block, choosin’ different styles, learnin’ how to count beats and measures, choosing beats, herbs for your voice when you’re on the road and smokin’ a lot of blunts. [laughter] Also settin’ up your own publishing company – like Emcee 101, and everything that I learned tryin’ to get into the industry during my time professionally. Believe it or not, it’s been about twenty years.
DJ Booth: Well, if you’re even looking for another means of income, may I suggest you contact some of the major colleges and universities across the country and offer this as a textbook, and the opportunity to open up a course in hip hop. ‘Cause who better than someone who’s been in the industry, like you said, for about 20 years or so, has knowledge and expertise to teach a course like that?
Stic.Man: Right on, man. That’s great you said it. In Oakland my book, The Art of Emcee-ing, is actually a textbook for a couple classes, so we’re workin’ on it, man. You’re right – we gotta document it before they have Bill O’Reilly writing The Art of Emcee-ing.
DJ Booth: Yeah, and no one wants to hear that opinion. You were the CEO of your own company; we mentioned the name earlier: Boss Up, Inc. Help out all the struggling company leaders who don’t know what to do, and explain how to properly “boss up.”
Stic.Man: Well, we’re in the process of our boss up. Ultimately, I believe “boss up” means bein’ free, our community’s bein’ liberated, and self-determinism. That is the ultimate expression of bossin’ up: bein’ your own boss, bein’ free.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Stic.Man, give everybody a website or a Myspace page, any way they can find out more about what you got goin’ on. Of course, your new album, “Manhood,” available now.
Stic.Man: Right on! Check us out twenty-four hours a day at bossupbu.com.
DJ Booth: I appreciate your time and I thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth. Wish you nothing but the best of luck, of course, on this independent project and all the rest of the Dead Prez albums I hope will be available to my ears in the next year.
Stic.Man: Definitely in the ‘08. I appreciate your questions and your time, the opportunity!