NewsOne recently sat down with rapper Mac Mall (pictured) at a panel for the Hip-HopChessFederation at John O’Connell High School in San Francisco, Calif. While discussing how chess and life strategies go hand-in-hand, we also discussed ways kids in the hood can avoid violence and focus on the importance of education.
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For those who are too young to understand Mac Mall’s impact on hip-hop, he was a pioneer of the West Coast sound in the mid-1990s. Shortly after he dropped the album Illegal Business, then-rising star Tupac Shakur took him under his wing. Tupac was deeply moved by the 17-year-old rapper who was taking over the Bay.
Watch Mac Mall’s “Ghetto Theme” here:
Mac Mall is known for always telling the truth on the mic. Some of his music outlines the impact of the drug wars and turf wars across the Bay Area among Oakland, San Francisco, and Vallejo. There was a time when a rapper from Vallejo could not even come to SF and talk because there would be real fights outside, but hip-hop has finally grown up.
Mac Mall’s latest release, The Rebellion Against All There Is, which is accompanied by a visually shocking video of the same title, shows the futures of two Black males (Mac Mall and Ray Luv) imprisoned and executed for speaking the truth. The quality of the music and the lyrical content remind you of the days when rappers spoke truth more consistently on the mic.
Watch Mac Mall’s “The Rebellion Against All There Is” here:
Here, Mac Mall discusses his social and artistic perspectives on music, Tupac’s hologram, and how rap has changed over the years.
NewsOne: You have an incredible album and video out. It’s on fire among the youth right now, from teens to the college scene. What inspired it?
Mac Mall: The title was always in my head. I think the thing that made me write the song was that I had the hook in my head:
Good morning, America/ Time to wake the kids/ And tell them that they only got one life to live/ So while you here/ Don’t waste time with fear/ Might as well rebel against all that there is.
It really made me start writing about all of the things I’ve questioned in my life. I think we all should question everything — no matter what it is. Find things out for yourself and be brave enough to question things.
NewsOne: In your video, there is a lot of religious symbolism as you both are taken to your executions. It’s a little unnerving, but very powerful. Can you explain what it meant to you as an artist?
MM: Kayree, my producer, plays a Catholic priest. He comes to read my last rites before my execution, but I won’t take ‘em. That’s where I am with religion. Ray Luv is with the Imam, and he takes his rites. Just two different looks. Some people ride with it, and some of us don’t.
In the video, I wanted people to see the brutal nature of an execution. I wanted people to see how they shave my head hard [as they prep him for the electric chamber]. I want you to see the fear in my eyes, but how I try to not let it get to me. I want you to see the needle going into Ray’s veins and see the look on his face.
With this record and where I’m at…growing up, hip-hop taught me a lot of things. Things that my parents didn’t teach me. Rappers, even if they were gangster, party, whatever — they always taught you something.
Now instead of teaching it’s all about selling. What once was the people’s — young Blacks and Puerto Ricans in N.Y. — are now being sold to us by Fortune 500 corporations. They are selling it back to us. Telling us how we should be, think, and live. We used to be the trendsetters. That’s not right.
As a fan of hip-hop and a rapper, I said to myself, “I cannot sit here and complain about the state of Hip-Hop- I have to do something about it.” So I came up with The Rebellion Against All There Is.
NewsOne: I know recently they had the Tupac hologram on stage at Coachella. As someone who knew him well, what were your thoughts?
MM: As far as the people at Coachella, I bet it was dope for them to see that, but I don’t know. I don’t care about it one way or another. I don’t want them to take it on tour. I think that would be disrespectful. Him being my personal friend, I thought the hologram did not move like Tupac. I been with him a lot of nights. But it was dope. They did a dope show, keep it moving.
NewsOne: Oakland has been such a flashpoint for political and social movements. What do you think of the Occupy Movement and where could it be headed?
My brother Ray Luv got tear gassed and he wasn’t even marching. He was walking to our studio out in Oakland. I felt like a lot of the people who should have been there were not out there. The real brothers on the corner wasn’t out there. A lot of them were middle class who were rocking for our rights. The cats in the hood was not out there like they should be.
I think the Occupy people need to get together as a political party. We need to get together and vote for whatever it’s worth. I voted for Obama [but] I feel robbed. I danced when he got elected. Now I feel kinda played.
NewsOne: Can Black people come to grips with the role of a President vs. the role of a Civil Rights leader?
MM: But the thing I trip on is that he was doing a lot of the stuff [former President George W.] Bush was doing. I understand you gotta be the President, but you ain’t gotta be the President like THAT!
NewsOne: Will you vote for him again?
MM: I don’t know. I think when I vote, I will vote on the local level.
NewsOne: But can Blacks afford to have Romney in?
MM: In the end, it’s the same agenda. It’s vanilla and chocolate; it’s all ice cream, but it tastes like s*it. I wish he would have stood his ground on some of the issues. I wish he would have brought more troops back quicker. I wish he would have done better with the tax bailouts. I wish he would have helped keep people in the neighborhoods, so they would not keep looking like they lookin’!
Right now, Mac Mall is staying steadfast in his rebellion against all things. You can find him on twitter @therealmacmall. With Occupy seeming to lose a bit of its steam and the Presidential election about to get into full swing, it will be interesting to see how rappers like Mac Mall and others engage their fans and politicians.
What do you think about rappers who give social and political commentary. Is it effective? Is the era for protest music over? Or will the current state of America force more rappers to speak out more? Please post your answers below.