Race is an issue that is here to stay until, as people of color and as a country, we decide to talk about the layers of issues that surround it and pull the wool from over our eyes. Before we get to that phase Stic.Man one half of the revolutionary minded duo Dead Prez is on a mission to unite African-Americans and people of color in the direction of one common goal, liberation. Clutch had the opportunity to find out what the Florida born entrepreneur/musician is doing to get himself and his surrounding communities closer to that goal. We discussed everything from his album Manhood, his new film and business ventures as well as his work with Nas, who of course is coming out with the controversial album N*gger.
Q: You were born and raised in Florida, describe how that quickly formed who you were and who you would become as a person and the mind state that you would take on.
To put it in a nutshell, there’s certain elements. I grew up in a rural area. The Black population in my town was very poor and we were the minority. The hip-hop in Florida was “Base music,” and a little bit of what they call east coast rap or whatever. So I grew up basically fighting crackers, getting kicked out of school, being broke, getting into little shit in the street because I’m trying to get money. Ultimately, I came into an awakening of the conditions I was living in—in the South—and basically got reconnected with the struggle for liberation. My mother was a hairdresser and my pops was an Air Force Veteran and he had a state job doing computer type shit.
Q: Fast forward I know you met M-1 at FAMU, but when did you decide to make the transition to New York and what was that experience like? I’m assuming it had to be a bit of a culture shock?
Yeah it was, but we were already hustling and bustling by that point and I had stopped rapping, and I was headed down a certain path of just trying to get money by any means necessary. I had read Malcolm’s autobiography and it was in me but it didn’t click all the way. M-1 was already feeling that and he was from New York so he was kind of like a guide for me and my big brother in a way. He went on and joined the Uhuru Movement and we had become friends but he was with the movement for a couple of years. I ended up getting locked up because I had an altercation on my block. I was locked up for a few months and I was like, ‘I have to get this together,’ and when I got out M-1 came back down and he as like, ‘We’re gonna shack up in a tight space somewhere and focus on our demo.’ He was like, ‘I know New York and we need to get out of this bullshit town Tallahassee and go to New York where some opportunities are at.’ So, me, him and about nine of our homies gathered up about 900 dollars between all of us and made that transition to Fort Greene, New York in 1994. Half of us were staying with my girl’s sister and the other half was staying in the Bronx. Her apartment caught on fire and the landlord found out we were all packed up in there and basically me and M-1 had to get out. So we were homeless for a while, staying in the train station and we would be up writing raps. Long story short we had to go back to Florida to hustle and save some more dough, and then me, M-1 and his girl at the time and my wife to this day moved back to New York and we would eventually meet Lord Jamaar of Brand Nubian and got signed to Loud [Records].
Q: So Dead Prez is official and you guys become internationally known. Now you’re branching out and getting involved in a plethora of things. Talk about BossUp Inc., how it started and the mission behind it.
Dealing with these labels is a blessing and a curse. You get the exposure that the machine can help you get but you get trapped and pimped out of so much that belongs to you. So, BossUp, coming from the tradition of Garvey and doing for self and Black empowerment, it was only right that we figure out how to build our own company and start owning and bossing our own shit. I was taught to be a man you have to be independent. BossUp is not a record label, it’s a company that does music, books, DVD’s, films, different types of merchandise, community programs, and so it’s basically just the RGB lifestyle incorporated. So BossUp’s goal is to be the Master P and the 50 Cent of the realist shit which is liberation of our people and bring economics to the edutainment.
Q: For those who don’t know, breakdown real quickly the RGB code and what that stands for.
RGB came out of us just organizing in the streets and its purpose is to try and build a bridge. We deal with some of the realist political prisoners and OG’s and we’ve been in the Uhuru Movement and the Malcolm X Grassroots movement but at the same time we’ll be in the hood in the Bronx or Southside Tallahassee where cats might not be quote end quote what somebody would call a conscious person, but are very strong, influential and wise in regard to what they’re dealing with. And that’s why we show respect to both sides of the question. RGB is basically that; it’s revolutionary but it’s gangsta because we believe you need both elements to be successful. RGB is that bridge so that people can come in as they are to the consciousness. We have a code and number one is No Snitching, and you have to have honor and integrity with everything that you do and without that we are our own worst enemies. Number two in the code is protecting yourself, family and community at all times and that’s just being aware. Being prepared to have that awareness, and the preparation might be martial arts or I’m not going to walk around with a bag of weed in my pocket. Preparedness is just being mindful that there’s an enemy waiting to trap us up. Number three is Each One Teach One which is self explanatory; everybody knows something but not everybody knows everything. Staying humble but sharing what you do have. Number four is be organized. Everyone has to know their role and play their position, things have to be mapped out. It’s not just ideas and intellectual masturbation but we have to be step by step in the things we want to get accomplished. Last but not least number five which is Be Productive. Be about it and show improvement—if we’re talking all this Black this and Black that but we’re broke as hell or I’m beating my wife or being consumers instead of producers.
Q: Elaborate on the concept of no snitching. I think when 60 Minutes had Cam’ron on there he didn’t deliver and or give a historical context to where no snitching really stems from?
Basically, it stems from you call the police and say that something is wrong at your house, when the police come to your house, your son, mother, father, sister or anybody is liable to get shot, liable to get arrested for some bullshit, liable to get harassed and otherwise intimidated and terrorized just because of their presence. Their presence is antagonistic to our community and them simply being around us has always made us feel like we’re under attack. Even if we’re in need of some assistance, according to the law the police are like a double edge sword. Historically the relationship between police and brown people is off the hook because the nature of the police is to enforce the status quo and to keep you in your place. Even if they have the Black police, they show out more than the crackers do sometimes because it’s not a race thing when it comes to the police, it’s a systems thing. So that’s what no snitching is about; it’s not about someone sitting there and terrorizing you. We’re gonna regulate and make our community safe.
Q: Back to the other things you were venturing into . . . talk about the film Slums13 and the character you’re playing.
Slum13 is a martial arts drama directed by R.L. Scott and he invited me to participate and play a character named Chapel. Basically I play a member of a street organization called the Black Rose and we are one fourth of the organizations that is trying to maintain control of the economics and the power in this area called Slum13. The city has been divided by these racial territories and Chapel responds to a killing that happens with a young brother and his character is transformed into someone who cares about what’s going on in the community. Those who are familiar with Bruce Leroy (laughs) he’s in there, Akon is in there and there’s a lot of other super-talented martial artists that are going to be in it. In addition, I just finished shooting my first documentary on the African Martial Arts and we’re in the editing stages of that now.
Q: Also speak on your magazine AMMO. Today the media is really hard to trust, even our own media so describe the content that will be in AMMO and the purpose behind it.
AMMO is an online magazine that has free music every month. The premise of the magazine is to put people on to information that is in our personal collection and from our personal experiences whether it be a book, DVD, a lecture or a campaign, it’s specific shit that we definitely have benefited from and it’s real life and practical. So that’s what AMMO is. We try to arm you with practical information, and our slogan is loaded with info and it’s only one dollar a month, iTunes gives you a song AMMO gives you a whole magazine and a song.
Q: Your latest album Manhood was a good effort, talk a little about your definition of manhood, and what is the one thing that you think is lacking in Black men today and what are some of the positive things that we’re doing?
Manhood is two words put together. Man deals with your personal development, your knowledge of self, personal integrity and hood deals with your community, what you’re accountable to. My album is a reflection of that, different aspects and the relationship to the women in our lives, our relationship with the business we need to handle, our relationship to each other as brother and our relationship to the system. I don’t think it’s productive to criticize Black men because that’s all we here, “you ain’t shit, never was shit, ain’t gonna be shit.” It’s not so much about what Stic.Man thinks is a man but it’s about what you think is a man for YOU.
Q: Working with Nas on the Nigger album and hearing and seeing all the attention and feedback he’s getting, what’s your opinion on the term, concept and in general everything?
It’s a delicate issue and it’s a trivial issue at the same time. As much as it matters it’s semantics, and if I’m totally honest that’s what I really think. White people came up with the term nigger, but historically the Niger river Negus which means King and all these are derivatives of these six letters and it’s just a word until a system of White power uses that word to identify and stigmatize and criminalize people. That’s when the word nigger matters. The word Nigger on a piece of paper doesn’t mean shit to me. To me Tupac took that word and baptized it so to speak. He said we’re gonna spell it like this and it stands for never ignorant, getting goals accomplished, and when he said that for me he baptized it for me. Every time I say it that’s what I mean. As far as Nas, why doesn’t he have the right as an artist to call his albums anything he wants? All these Uncle Tom niggas jumped on him without giving that Black man a chance to express himself. For all they know he could have said I hate this word and I never want to see it again and I have twenty songs to tell you why. They’re not doing it for Nas’ benefit or our benefit, they’re doing it for White folks. I just got back from L.A. working with Nas on his album and we did about five or six songs and you know how we do, so it’s definitely going to be something that’s going to inspire the people and be all the way hood and all the way real.