THE PERCEPTIONISTS with MINDBENDER at the Reverb (651 Queen West), Sunday (April 17). $15. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Despite his rep as a political spitter, Mr. Lif - whose substance-soaked compound rhyme flows are as recognizable as the MoMA-worthy dreadlock installation on his head - is finally done raggin' on the White House's wicked ways.
"Everyone knows the government doesn't care about people," he tells me over some choppy cellphone reception during a tour stop at a backwoods restaurant in Michigan. "Bashing the government and bashing Bush has become a trendy thing that I don't want to take part in any more. It's just like it's a style now, and whenever that shit happens I go in an opposite direction."
Lif's newest direction is his first group, the Perceptionists, with Akrobatik and DJ Fakts One. Through being on the Def Jux roster and touring together, the three have been down for a minute. It's not a shock that they've got more chemistry on their brand-spankin' LP Black Dialogue than Bill Nye - and drop more science than his bitch ass, too. The album also includes a really dated "where are the weapons of mass destruction" track containing, presumably, some of Lif's final words for Bush.
But what is a bit of a surprise is how digestible it is while still always having something to say. Black Dialogue features Guru, Phonte of Little Brother and a verse on the piss-funny Career Finders by the recently dusted-off Humpty Hump, aka Shock G.
The record reminds me of Blackalicious's Blazing Arrow strictly because of the crossover vibe it's giving off. It's also nice to hear Lif breaking his typecast.
"People need to label shit. Like, I'm supposed to be a political rapper because I made a couple of political records. So that's why I wrote some love songs - because I'm a human being. I'm not walking CNN," reports Lif, who's a few tracks into his next solo record.
Maybe Black Dialogue is an easier listen than Def Jux's usual material because Lif and his fellow Jukies are so often relegated to the music-jargon realms of alt-rap, avant-hop and post-rap, generally deemed the catchall "alternative" by music critics.
"I guess I could be called an alt-rapper in that I'm the alternative to bullshit," says Lif. "But if you mean alternative like avant-garde, I dunno. Are Black Moon and Public Enemy avant-garde? Is Boogie Down Productions avant-garde? I thought that was just hiphop. They're the cats I'm emulating, but I'm making brand new b-boy shit. It ain't nothin' but hardcore rap shit.
"Every time I pick up the pen I'm trying to rip everyone's fuckin' face off."