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Local Grooves

Prophets of Rage

My Power (Uplift Music Group)

Straight outta Richmond, Rico Pabon, the sole prophet of the group Prophets of Rage, gives Latin hip-hop a socially conscious jolt. On "Make the Most," he states his creed: "I make the most of what I got / Hoping I can blow the spot and make a knot / But keep my soul intact / If I make it, mami, I'm a be back / So my community and friends will never go hungry again." The album serves up hip-hop and Latin rhythms, spiced with dub and funk. Rico, who produced 9 of the album's 16 tracks, flows articulately throughout – rapping in English or Spanish or affecting reggae cadences. His versatility extends to his topics as well; one minute he's proclaiming, "Turn up your bump, it's an international fiesta," the next he's renouncing the prison-industrial complex. A bunch of talented locals appear on My Power (including Femi, Ahsabi Monique, Kimo, Headnod, No One, Luqman Frank, and Charlie Justice), but it's Rico's show all the way. It's apparent where Pabon's corazón lies: "Contact High" shouts out Oscar Lopez, Lebrita Lebron, and Mumia Abu-Jamal; "Freedom Fighters" makes a plea for Puerto Rican independence; and the LP's closer, "Ni un minuto mas," features a cameo by poet Piri Thomas. (Eric K. Arnold)

 

Elders of Zion

Dawn Refuses to Rise (Incidental Music)

It is an interesting time to release an album that indoctrinates its listeners in esoteric corners of the left: the war on terrorism has rendered serious criticism unpatriotic, four former radical activists await trial on murder charges, never mind that an energy company raised on deregulation mismanaged funds and cost employees their life's savings. It's enough to make Joel Schalit, the main force behind the Elders of Zion and a member of the Christal Methodists, want to stop embarrassing America's radio evangelists with crank calls and get serious about the revolution. On Dawn Refuses to Rise, Schalit and his collaborators have gone far beyond the confines of culture jamming à la Negativland. Using cut-and-paste methods (rather than bourgeois sequencers) and fierce drumming by Pansy Division member Luis Illades, the Elders wield agitative samples such as a speech by an SDS member circa 1969, an Australian libertarian espousing Marxist eschatology (a radical's answer to the Second Coming), and witnesses accusing police of brutality during the Y2K IMF protests in Washington, D.C. The sounds of people taking action mixed with the Elders' dark, rumbling, red techno create a history of revolutionary thinking for today's disco communists, telling us that this is what democracy sounds like. (Deborah Giattina)