Dead Prez

RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta

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Though their methods aren't subtle, Dead Prez are as intelligent and philosophical a group of social activists as Public Enemy or Boogie Down Productions -- it's just that their philosophies stray more to the Geto Boys style of extreme criminal fantasies. RBG stands for Revolutionary But Gangsta, a stance that the Dead Prez duo Stic and M1 back up with tale after lurid tale of inner-city life. They're showing their listeners how to strive and how to survive, whether it means scamming welfare or credit cards for all they're worth ("Hell Yeah [Pimp the System]"), decrying the messages of commercial radio ("Radio Freq"), or dreaming of responding to organized violence with a police-station drive-by. They're not without a sense of humor ("F***ed Up" is a cautionary alcoholic's tale that prompts the line, "Let's make a toast to my liver and my kidneys"), but without clear lines between fact and fantasy, it's impossible to tell where the group is attempting to educate and where they're attempting to entertain. (Chuck D and KRS-One knew well not to confront their listeners with every track they wrote.) Jay-Z stops by for a rhyme on a remix of "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)," but even he sounds constrained (and understandably so) by the subject matter.

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