Music Change agents

Perceptionists and the return of politics to hip-hop

Underground hip-hop heads have been waiting for the genre's return to politics ever since Bill Clinton left the White House. The theory was that once the Republicans took power, the bling era would subside, returning the music to its rightful role as America's Black CNN. Some artists have stepped up, including Nas, with the Kobe- and Condi-bashing "These Are Our Heroes," and Immortal Technique, whose homophobic revolution-as-marketing-scheme eventually came off as contrived. But no one has come closer to hitting the mark than the Boston trio known as the Perceptionists.

Officially formed for the 2000 track "Avengers," the Perceptionists - consisting of stalwart emcees Mr. Lif and Akrobatik, along with DJ/producer Fakts One - have garnered a reputation for dynamic live sets and conscious wordplay. Their long-awaited debut, Black Dialogue, is a refreshing primer for blending party vibes and positivity, while rocking a crowd. The album begins with an off-kilter sequence of bumping tracks and hits it stride with the searing "Memorial Day." The track is a potent protest jam written from the perspective of an American foot-soldier in Iraq, and it conjures images of beats being pounded on camouflaged Hummers in order to call out the current commander-in-chief. "Black Dialogue," the title cut, takes aim at the current crop of African-American performers who have taken hip-hop to the edges of minstrelsy for monetary gain.

The album also offers an array of light-hearted tracks, including the Native Tongues' derivative "Love Letters," a bubbly valentine to the fairer sex, and "Career Finders" which offers a quirky take on modern emcees and finds Digital Underground's Humpty Hump actually acting right.

Ultimately, Black Dialogue fulfills the expectations one might have for a three-man underground super-group of this caliber.

Black Dialogue
The Perceptionists
(Definitive Jux)
Mr. Lif is even more on point than he was on "Home of the Brave" from 2002's Emergency Rations EP and Akrobatik's stellar performance echoes the disclaimer from his 2003 LP Balance: "I truly believe that one person's ideas can change the world. It's been done with both wonderful and tragic results.

I have devoted myself to trying to change hip-hop and the perceived image of the black male for the better. Find your purpose and make that change." Those looking to make that change should not sleep on the Perceptionists.

M. Solis

Scroll to read more Music Stories & Interviews articles


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.