Dead Prez & DJ Green Lantern Pulse of The People: Turn Off The Radio Vol. 3

[Invasion/Boss Up; 2009]

Styles: political hip-hop, rap
Others: Public Enemy, Talib Kweli

Dead Prez take issue with failing schools, racist police, and a corrupt government, but homophobia and misogyny are A-OK! Teaming up with DJ Green Lantern, famous for dropping gay-bashing diss tracks for Eminem and 50 Cent, hood revolutionaries and M-1 let some sin slip through on Pulse of The People. Starting strong with furious indictments of the financial downturn over manic beats, the mixtape drags with preachy complaints and poor execution before train-wrecking into the derogatory clichés Dead Prez had sworn to fight.

Let’s Get Free, Dead Prez’s debut album, contains the most incendiary political rap since Public Enemy. Songs like “Hip Hop” sounded tough while asking us to check if we were our own oppressors, chasing diamonds instead of respect. Here, DP are too often content to point fingers, playing the victim and citing ‘the hustle’ as the only solution. Inspiration runs thin and the rhymes slow and stupefy on “Life Goes On,” as M-1 grumbles soggy lines such as “If you ain’t happy make a change then/ If what you doing ain’t working it might be time to change plans.” Attempts at promoting civic duty like “Helpful” are so laughably dull they dilute the real message of revolt: “Take my extra clothes/ To a clothing drive/ Help the lady cross the street/ Bring her bags inside.” Meanwhile, Green Lantern, too eager to show off his keyboard chops, hinders the ambitious, Swahili-sung “Afrika Hot!” with needless reggaeton synth and sedates “Refuse to Lose” with tiptoeing baby grand.

Pulse of the People features Chuck D and Bun B, but it’s Jamaican dancehall upstart Mavado who stands out. His thick patois over a rat-a-tat drum kit gives the chilling hook of “Gangsta, Gangster” a satisfyingly tense, murder-in-Kingston feel that Dead Prez’s stock verses can’t match. The ambitious “Warpath” tests out a brooding funk-rock slither, but and M-1 are unable to sync with the beat. Instead, they’re bested by their tormentor, an uncredited Boogie Man who closes the track bellowing, “Guess what’s next for the X generation?/ I’m about to turn the whole damn hood into a slave ship/ You thought that was some shit in New Orleans/ You better watch out for the global warming.”

Pulse of the People does shine briefly, however. “Running Wild” ignites the album with M-1 enunciating, “Middle finger to his teachers/ A rebellious young genius,” over martial snare drums and Lantern’s signature air-raid synthesizers. Avery Storm wails out the hook as an exasperated voice explains, “I gotta get out here and get this money man/ My daughter’s feet grow every day.” Next, Green Lantern imbues “Don’t Hate My Grind” with creeping dread from a grim harpsichord, as M-1 cries out, “Go to bed with excruciating pain in your abdomen/ So hungry you can’t sleep, you just lay awake imagining/ Big dreams, big schemes, big risk taking/ Penitentiary waiting for me if I’m mistaken.” This is the Dead Prez we’d go to war with, all striking vocabulary and authentic emotion.

But then there’s “My Dirty Valentine,” complete with cheap porno guitar and lines like, “You got me harder than a ton of bricks/ Can you send me a pic?/ You and your homegirl show me your tits.” As if the issues of the world cease when they enter the bedroom, Dead Prez objectify women in a dizzying display of hypocrisy. Stumbling too many times to build up steam, Dead Prez should have scrapped Pulse of The People and banked the most feverish moments for the next full-length. Instead, they sell out their constituency for a few Green Lantern radio spins.

2. Runnin’ Wild
3. Don’t Hate My Grind (Feat. Bun B)
4. Warpath (Feat. Rat Fink)
5. Gangsta, Gangster (Feat. Styles P)
6. Afrika Hot!
7. NYDP (Feat. Johnny Polygon)
8. Summer Time
9. Refuse to Lose (Feat. Chuck D and Avery Storm)
10. Life Goes On
11. Helpful
12. Pulse
13. $timulus Plan
14. My Dirty Valentine

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