Marley's Mixed Message

Shoot the sheriff, shoot the breeze, stand up, get down, whatever

Still there's no denying the excitement they generate. After an afternoon of unending platitudes to peace and love, their "Cop Shot" ("The only good cop is a dead cop") was received like raw electricity, with pro-versus-con arguments breaking out immediately on either side of Kulchur. And their fully crunked-out beats had plenty of white kids furiously bopping their heads even as the group name-checked their guns and then warned, "I'm down for running up on some crackers in they city hall."

"Yeah, MIA," the group's panted into his microphone between songs. "It may be hard for you to swallow this." His beaming smile, however, revealed he was clearly savoring any discomfort he might be causing.

Everywhere the white man go he bring misery: Dead Prez's M-1 stirs it up at the Bob Marley festival
Peter Lieberman
Everywhere the white man go he bring misery: Dead Prez's M-1 stirs it up at the Bob Marley festival

"We come to break up some peaceful vibes," explains Dead Prez's M-1 to Kulchur inside a backstage trailer after their set. With sitting to his right, he stresses, "We come to break that up. We didn't come here to just chill with things the way it is." To M-1, if anyone is misinterpreting the message of Bob Marley, it's the other performers on the festival's bill. He points to the song "Zimbabwe," which Marley wrote especially for and then sang at that nation's 1980 independence fete. "[Bob Marley's] talking about freedom; he's celebrating the freedom of Zimbabwe, which was a violent, revolutionary thing.... Instead of saying it's all ďOne Love,' let's talk about freedom, justice, equality, and respect. Let's talk about the resources we ain't getting. Bob was talking about that stuff a lot!" jumps in: "It's easy to commercialize some shit. They put Malcolm X on a stamp. When Malcolm was living, they wasn't trying to let his ass nowhere near a post office. When you make a novelty out of some shit, that's how they weaken it. So we come here to bust it up." With a laugh he explains what was going through his mind before today's show. "It's half white people here because they're charging $30 to get in. Niggers ain't got $30 to be coming up in here."

He scoffs, "It used to be you just bring canned goods. We want to make sure we represent the people who couldn't get in -- that's what Bob was talking about when he sang of the spirit of the poor." The actual price at the gate may have been $25 and four cans of food, but's derisive tone suggests he's in no mood to argue semantics.

M-1 leans back in his chair and begins cleaning his fingernails, as if to show how bored he's getting with this line of questioning. Finally, anticipating Kulchur's next question, he sighs. "Indeed it's all one love, it's all good, and I have no problem with white people at all," he says dryly, "but when it comes down to what we dealing with --" His eyes turn steely and he changes tack sharply: "The Jewish people found they had some gold stolen from them during the Holocaust, and they gonna give this gold back?" He shakes his head incredulously. "Well, we got mad gold stolen from us and never got no gold back! This was in the news yesterday, and it's like slapping me in the face. So I'm not going to come out onstage and act like it's all good. Red, gold, and green, and I'm chillin'. I'm not chillin'!"

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