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Andrew El-Kadi
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001
    “Free The People from the prejudices that pop culture places in their psyche permanently”.

    A compilation of hip-hop and spoken word, dedicated to the youth of Palestine, inspired by the global struggle for peace and justice, 2005.

    At a time when hip-hop’s conscious origins seem rarely evident in light of a more exploited form that focuses on faux-thug trends, a culture of awareness seems to be making a comeback to the forefront of hip-hop (the mainstream included). What would be a better time for socially conscious hip-hop to go global? Palestinians, that's right PALESTINIANS, have hit the hip-hop scene en-masse; even coming to the screen with a soon-to-be-released documentary entitled "Slingshot Hip Hop". In light of this fact, a "Free the P" mixtape was put together by rap group the Philistines, including artists from New York to the Gaza Strip putting down track after track of hard-hitting lyricism, whether through spoken word or rhymes a la rap. For those who attended the “Free the P” fundraiser in New York, it was truly incredible. But for those who missed it, the mixtape is an equally tight collection of rhymes that doesn’t disappoint.

    As Suheir Hammad begins the CD with “bump loud this freedom CD, this Palestine-lovin’ poet-ry”, I felt it appropriate to heed her words so I turned that shit up on my headphones. It was worth the loss of hearing. The Philistines, the duo turned apparent trio of Rag-Top, B-Dub and Flip began with hot rhymes on “Arabifunk”, bringin’ a key phrase to the theme of the CD, “through this consciousness and activism plus hip-hop, we gon’ stay workin’ for the cause, and grind around the clock.” How appropriate since the Philistines are donating all proceeds from this album to the costs of Jackie Salloum’s “Slingshot Hip Hop”, a Palestinian hip-hopumentary.

    Invincible’s “No Compromises” covers issues from Palestine — “it’s called a security fence, but all I see as far as the eyes stretch [is a] superiority complex” to the local police, “there’s a discrepancy of good cop, bad cop, every cop operates with injustice as a backdrop” — breaking down complex issues into perfect one-liners.

    Martial law

    The Philistines, joined by rapper Omar Offendum of the N.O.M.A.D.S., put down the title track with lines that can be seen as definitive to the mixtape such as “perhaps we’re, the reason why rap’s feared, ‘cause we can attack their, patriot acts with patriotic dispatches…” and the obvious but well-stated “home to [the] Roman empire’s own kid sister America, who fits the apparel ‘a, her predecessor from the dresser wearin’ the hand-me-down oppressor cuz it’s in her blood…”

    Euphrates, a Canadian-Iraqi group mourning MC Nofy Fannan, laid down “I.R.A.Q.,” modeled after Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R,” but instead dedicated to their long-lost love Iraq. The beat and hook, a sample of what sounds like an old Spanish love song, are especially incredible. The Visionaries surprised me with “Strike,” packed with dope lines like, “wanna be a martyr? Go ahead, in a direction that’s been run to death…” and the humorous “God won’t bless this damn-nation.”

    Are suicide bombers just “freedom fighter[s] on a mission”? Check the N.O.M.A.D.S. on the single-verse track “Moot.” And if you’re searching for seriously militant, unbelievably raw/rough and rugged truths, look to Immortal Technique’s “4th Branch”, where Tech finds no qualms about calling Condi Rice a “new age Sally Hemmings” and spits “martial law is comin’ soon to the hood to kill you, while you hangin’ ya’ flag out your project window,” to quote a few softer hittin’ lines.

    This review definitely wouldn’t be complete without mentioning what a clown the Iron Sheik is on the track “Neo Con Luv,” where he tries out his vocal chords on a classic hook of “Condoleeza, you look so good to me… Dick Cheney, why you so sexy? And Wolfowitz, you make my dreams come true…. And W, those freaky things you do!”

    All in all, the Free The P mixtape comprises some of the best hip-hop and spoken word to be heard on the streets today. The Philistine’s unbelievable ability to order track after track of hard hittin’ lyricism should be applauded. Likewise, every artist on the mixtape should be celebrated for helping piece together what is one of the greatest thematic and lyrical hip-hop compilations to come out in a while.