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Dead Prez

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one half of the dynamic duo that is Dead Prez. Known for their revolutionary and political lyrics, I was still pleasantly surprised when I first heard "The Beauty Within." A remix of B.o.B.'s "Nothing on You," it was released on Mother's Day 2010, and celebrates the beauty of black women, and (drum roll please) natural hair.

I shared the video a couple of weeks back and the response was unanimously positive. It made such an impact on our community, that I thought it only fitting to reach out to the artists with YOUR questions. Stic.Man, officially the realest, took some time out of his touring schedule to let us pick his brain.

SweetDrk1: In a world full of lace fronts, what motivated you to dedicate the song to natural women?

Stic.Man: So many things motivated this song. In essence, we were trying to give a salute, give support, and give energy to women who have self-love and confidence. It’s for the women who know that taking care of themselves naturally, only enhances their beauty. As opposed to buying into the culture of putting all types of chemicals in the hair, and doing a million different things trying to be something else; something other than what we are.

I grew up in a household with the lady who "fixed the naps." Very Madam CJ Walker [laughs]. She was a very popular cosmetologist in my hometown. Women came to her for their perms and relaxers and whatnot. So growing up, it wasn’t unusual for me to hear, "Let me fix that kitchen," or "That hair is a mess; let me do something to it."

As I grew and began learning about figures such as Malcolm X and our struggle in general, I became reflective about that whole process and way of thinking. Then one day, my niece came home from school in tears. She had a head full of healthy, natural hair that her mother kept in braids and twists. Unfortunately, because of her un-straightened hair, the kids in her class were picking on her. My mom told her, "Don’t worry what they say...just believe in yourself."

I remember pulling my mom to the side and asking her, "Where do you think she hears that stuff more? Even more than at school?" That’s what you say all day, that’s what her mom tells her all the time: "Come here, let me do something to that hair!" I told you that little story because that day, my mom and my sister went natural. And they’ve been natural ever since—my niece is now 22! So I've just been around it, and culturally, it’s a big deal for our sisters, and many women, to appreciate their beauty as they’re made by nature. So I wanted to support that.

Terra D: What kind of impact did you want this song to make?

That’s a good question. We created this song to support and motivate that sister who is dating somebody with the mentality, "I don’t like all that nappy short hair," or the sister who thinks the blonde Beyonce wig is what beauty is. So the impact I want it to have is to show our women that all the brothers definitely don’t see it like that. I just want it to give encouragement and to say that the status quo is not everybody’s opinion, and what matters most is the way you feel on the inside.

I’m not trying to judge sisters who have relaxers, or those who are into creative styles that may not be natural. I’m not trying to play one against the other. I feel like our community psychologically has been traumatized, and made to not appreciate our skin, our culture, our hair, our body type, shapes, lips, noses, ass, you name it! We have to really take a step back and appreciate these things. So that you can say, "I’m me, and I’m unique, and I’m fresh, and I’m fly!"

JasmineA: Your interview with Nikki comes on the heels of the highly publicized Psychology Today article where the "scientific" conclusion is that black women are less attractive than other races. What are your thoughts about that?

I missed that, but it sounds like bunk. I’m biased as a black man. To me there is no finer, more beautiful, more dynamic, more whole woman, than the African woman in all shapes and forms. I’m not saying it to be cliche, but Africa is the mother of all the women, of all the men. Attractiveness is definitely in the eye of the beholder. An Asian man probably thinks Asian women are most beautiful, while a white man prefers white women. I think when you talk about beauty in terms of symmetry, in terms of longevity; look at a black woman's skin, features, and beauty over time—it’s hands down! I’m not trying to make it a racist thing, but white people don’t age well. There ain’t no way in the world you can’t tell me that the black woman isn’t the dopest being you’ve seen on the planet. But like I said, I’m biased. I was born from a black woman, and I’m married to a black woman. I’m probably not the most objective person to answer this question.

JasmineA: Stic.Man, how did your wife receive the song "The Beauty Within?" Is she natural?

Is my wife natural? She is the epitome of that song. Totally. She even got me focusing on health. When I met her, she was natural. She’s part Creole and her hair has a looser wave—kinky, but wavy. I remember her making it very, very clear to me, "You know this is not a relaxer." She was just really adamant: "I’m a black woman, I’m natural, I don’t eat this, I don’t eat that, I’m in the gym." She's a warrior with her natural self! She is now a holistic health counselor and has a website, Nattral. She’s in full support of the song. Even more than in support, she’s the inspiration for the song. Her, and sisters like her around the world.

TerraD: Do you have any advice for the men, to help continue to uplift black women?

We have to look at the women in our lives—our mates, our friends, our associates, mothers, aunts—as really our comrades. I always say teamwork makes the dream work. We have to see that when we tear each other down, it’s really just fear—that fake pimp, machismo stuff that we hide behind. It’s counterproductive, and we have to see ourselves as team members and give support and words. I think women respond well to words and compliments. But they respond even more so to seeing those actions of support. And the respect that’s shown when you speak highly of each other—when you keep your word, when you don’t try to think for a woman—that speaks volumes. We need to encourage our women to have their own voice, and rather than trying to being their boss, be their teammate and encourage their development. As men we can do this. We can support, teach, listen and learn. Above all, we need to have that compassion for the mothers of our family. We have to see our mates as our sisters and our friends, and more than just our lovers.

CN: Tell us about the video.

It’s funny. "The Beauty Within" video, the one you're referring to that's floating around the web, is actually an unauthorized version of the video that we shot a year ago. We decided to shelve it. So yeah, what you saw was some shots of some footage put together by another director. It wasn’t up to par, and it was released without permission. It still has a good vibe to it, but it was definitely a violation on the internal [laughs]. My guy Shannon McCollum, an awesome photographer and videographer, just shot the official video, and it's AMAZING! I’ll be sure to get that over to you when it’s available.

CN: What are you working on right now? Anything you want to share with the CN community?

I'd like for y'all to check out "Baby Fat" on my new album "The Workout". It’s featuring my wife rapping for the first time. Also, a dope, dope, dope natural sister named Maimouna Youssef is singing the hook, and another really strong, revolutionary natural hair stylist and MC, named Ife Jie. They helped me out on that song, which is dedicated to health and fitness. That particular song is to inspire and to salute women who have given birth to life and are trying to get their bodies back in shape, because they want to, not for society. So I would love to hear some feedback from the women of CurlyNikki on that record, and the album in general. You can check it out at SticRBG.com.


Got questions for celebs? Want to participate in the next Community Interview? Email me at Nikki@curlynikki.com using "celeb interviewer" as the subject line, and I'll be sure to contact you the next time I've got a VIP On the Couch!

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