When Drum Gang Productions sent me this beat I was immediately blown away by it’s intensity. Of course, I felt it was perfect for me, and the type of music I make, but still I was unsure how I should approach it. I knew it was special and I didn’t want to waste it. Originally I wrote about the general oppression we go through as black people in the United States (ie: police brutality, racism and political prisoners). We had just attended a rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal and with him being incarcerated just a half hour away from Pittsburgh he’s always on my mind.
Coincidentally, as me and Paradise the Arkitech were walking into the studio to lay down the track, he turned to me and said, “M-1 needs to be on this song.” Now you can’t be a “conscious” MC these days and claim not to be influenced by Dead Prez, the most successful revolutionary Hip-Hop group since the golden era. Paradise had M-1’s number because he had just came through Pittsburgh to visit Mumia and they were able to connect and build. So Paradise pulled out the cell and called him up, passed me the phone, I wrote down M-1’s email and sent him the beat that night.
Anyone who has followed me for even a brief amount of time knows I work very fast. I felt we had a really great song and of course having M-1 on it would make it a classic in my book, but I started to feeling anxious like I needed to put the song and video out right away. After a few weeks went by I emailed M-1 to see if he still had interest in being on the song. He responded by saying he would be in Pittsburgh that same night and we could hit the studio as soon as he touched down. I called Paradise super excited like, “M-1’s coming in tonight we need a studio where we can record!”
Pittsburgh is not like New York City and M-1 was schedule to hit town at about 12:30 at night so getting into a studio was not gonna be easy because most are closed, but James Webb’s Studio is not like most studios. It’s sort of like a boxing gym the way it’s set up and what it may lack in amenities it makes up for in sheer energy. Unlike most studios you don’t go into some enclosed booth, the booth is a huge room that’s glass so everybody cannot just hear you but see you. And Webb’s clientele isn’t ya average “backpack rapper” it’s mainly dudes straight off the block, so if you coming like we were with some Hip-Hop with a message, it better be hard. Plus were joined by one of the rawest battle MCs on the planet, the legendary Boka, so the vibe was crazy!
M-1 was phased by none of this. Brother was one of the most humble unassuming people I’ve ever met. Even though I know he’s busy and just got off a flight, he came in wrote a incredible verse on the spot. After he laid it he asked me if because he didn’t reference the topics that I did whether he should change it. My first thought was HELLLLL NO! He spoke on the struggle and that was fine with me, plus he killed it. At this point I was just gonna save the song for my album. Even though I was preparing the “Rappers On X” mixtape, I felt like the song was so special, especially now with M-1 on it, that it would make whatever album I did even bigger.
Fast forward to last week and I like many sat in front of the computer watching the incredible events transpiring in Africa and the Middle East. Seeing oppressed people fighting against tremendous odds taking back power from ruthless tyrants brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t watching it like I was apart from it, I felt like I was watching my brothers and sisters fulfilling the will of God, freedom for all. As I was listening to my music and “We Shall All Be Free” came on. M-1’s verse sounded like he wrote it responding to this worldwide upheaval, even though he wrote it months earlier. I also felt like this was a moment where we had show solidarity with our family fighting for freedom all over the planet. I immediately rewrote and rerecorded my verse and started working on the video.
As many people were updating on facebook and twitter about what was happening in Egypt and Tunisia the one that stood out to me the most was from poet activist Amir Sulaiman who tweeted , “The Revolution you’re watching on your computer you’ll soon be watching through your window“. It struck me because many of the conditions that lead to revolution over there exist here in the United States. I pray those in power take heed to what’s happening all over the world. I believe those brave brothers in sisters in Tunisia and Egypt have struck a match that won’t be put out until freedom fills this entire earth.
In solidarity, One Hood