The Original College Dropout: Mr. Lif

Somewhere between the margins of mainstream hip hop and the top of the underground stands the long-time friends, Akrobatik, Mr. Lif, and DJ Fakts One, who together are The Perceptionists. They recently released their first LP, Black Dialogue, an album where they continue old themes yet still cross new lyrical and musical boundaries. Guru, Humpty Hump aka Shock G from Digital Underground make appearances on the album. DJ Fakts One has long worked with Mr. Lif producing his Enters the Colossus (2000) Emergency Rations (2002), and his latest LP I, Phantom (2002). On Friday, April 15 The Perceptionists minus DJ Fakts One, performed at Nectar’s. Talking to the Cynic before the show Mr. Lif said of Vermont, “I’m a New Englander so I have love for the whole region. I feel that Vermont is our version of Humboldt County in California; it’s the East Coast’s rebuttal. I always like coming out here.”

Akrobatik and Mr. Lif have made a reputation of being the voice the disenchanted, with poignant and highly critical political and cultural commentary on US foreign policy, the war in Iraq, and the soullessness they see in America.

On Mr. Lif’s album Enters the Colossus (2000) Ak and Lif were ahead of their time when they teamed up for the song “Avengers,” which was a sharp criticism of the popular conception of terrorism created by government propaganda.

The two have continued on this line of thought offering insightful commentary on post-9/11 American society.

Mr. Lif is known as Howard Zinn’s favorite hip hop artist. In 2003 Zinn quoted Mr. Lif in his column “Chorus Against War” published in The Progressive where he wrote, “Rap artists have been speaking out on war, on injustice. Mr. Lif says: ‘I think people have been on vacation and it’s time to wake up. We need to look at our economic, social, and foreign policies and not be duped into believing the spin that comes from the government and the media.'” Although Mr. Lif is not afraid to be outspoken in regard to his political beliefs he does have some reservations concerning the political bottle he has created for himself. When asked what the motives were behind much of the music found on Black Dialogue he responded, “We just wanted to make a record that sounded big, that was a lot of fun, and honestly reflected who we are as human beings. People like to put us in the political bottle; they like to keep us there because we made a few political records.” Political bottle or not, in Black Dialogue, The Perceptionists don’t hold back from their continuous onslaught on the Bush Administration’s intentions behind the war in Iraq with their song “Memorial Day” written from the perspective of a disillusioned soldier. The chorus goes like this, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?/ We’ve been looking for months and we ain’t found nothin’/ Please Mr. President tell us somethin’/ We knew fromt he beginning that you ass was bluffin’!!” Breaking the political bottle is their mutual love for Boston sports, specifically the New England Patriots. Akrobatik took the stage rocking a New England Patriots jersey with “Akrobatik” embroidered on the back. They even changed up the pace with a song written in praise of the Patriots. When Mr. Lif was asked about what the Patriots’ recent success has meant to him, he said, “It’s huge, I’m a die-hard Pats fan, I have been watching them since I was a very young man.” The conversation moved toward his various political and social influences that drive much of his music. He said, “You don’t even have to search too far for inspiration; it’s just the struggle of daily life. Anyone who’s trying to pay bills and keep a roof over their head is privy to things that make up strife nowadays. I draw on situations I go through, situations my parents go through, that my friends go through. That is pretty much what fuels me.” Following the idea of inspiration and muses, Mr. Lif’s answer to the question of what he has been reading lately he replied, “I have been reading this book called Rakim Told Me by Brain Coleman; it’s a very important book about hip hop, of the history and hip hop’s golden age. It gives a historical account of what its like making certain classic records form Rakim, EPMD, Too Short, and others who made hip hop a mainstay in mainstream culture. It’s going to available on my site www.mrlif.com.” If you like hip hop and you’re sick of the same old mainstream bling bling shit, and you’ve listened to too much emo-hop, then you should pick up The Perceptionists new LP Black Dialogue. It’s hip-hop with a conscience and with beats you can rock out to.