Revolution of the Mind caught my attention on this year’s Snowgoons double barrel “Snowgoons Dynasty.” The beat for “Missing Pages” was probably the weakest of all 32, but the MC’s politically charged rhymes made me listen up regardless:
“What you know about freedom fighters, 25-to-lifers
when you thought that rap started in a BET Cypher?
My spit’s like an Egyptian with a brick
You a fake-ass hipster on some Occupy shit
99.9% of protest don’t mean shit
Make a real revolutionary sick
For makeshift movements and their delusions there is dissin’
Absence of real leaders – we’ll salute to any prick
I’ll prove to these pigs the strength of this glock on me
Turn a peaceful protest to a Syrian block party”
I pursued Revolution of the Mind and found out they released a free album via DJBooth.net earlier this year. Comprised of rapper I.Sheik and DJ Dfi, the duo has been together since the early ’00s and has the co-sign of former Non Phixion MC Sabac Red, who executive-produces “Honor in Sin.” Name and title suggest a rather serious affair, which is the case to a large degree.
“New Mourning” sets the tone, I.Sheik maintaining a finely balanced vocal intensity, deploying lines like “Revolution of the Mind, a call to the conscience / like Rage in ’99 cause ‘all hell can’t stop us'” and “No justice, no peace; dude, I’m not your slave / Got me on a short leash like this was Abu Ghraib” not at the top of his lungs but still with clear conviction. The most obvious point of reference are Dilated Peoples, only that Rakaa and Ev emcee more smoothly than Sheik, who like many political minded rappers may be just a little too eager to get his message across. Nevertheless he is clearly a dedicated West Coast representative, putting in work for the Bay Area over Keelay & Zaire’s blaxploitation background for “Block’s Conscience,” the album’s most relaxed offering (also featuring a strong, soulful but unfortunately uncredited hook). Keelay & Zaire produce two more cuts and the Snowgoons connection results in more quality production. Dfi’s own contributions (two beats, plus the DJ track “Gun Talk II”) are so solid his talents have to be considered underused on ROTM’s sophomore effort.
Either way the focus is necessarily on the lyrical content. Born into the turmoil of the Iranian revolution of 1979, I.Sheik still cares about his native country. “Day That I Die” portrays him as a man who hardly abandons his mission, whether as rapper or as political activist. On “Die For My People” he explicates his feelings towards Iran’s political history of the last 30 years. Relating how a father dies at the hands of the Shah’s henchmen and his son is sacrificed by the regime of the Ayatollahs as a human shield and minesweeper, the song is a powerful reminder that revolutions often simply replace one evil with another. In the final verse I.Sheik arrives in the present time, voicing his support for today’s dissidents. On the title track he also talks about his own family getting caught up in political upheavals, offering the surprising conclusion that “blood is thicker than revolution.”
I.Sheik’s lyrics aren’t easily digested. “All We Ask Is Trust” cautions against the extremist influence on the Muslim population, although you’d expect a song that explicitly demands trust to be worded more clearly. He fares better with “In His Name” which doesn’t single out one religion as far as the manipulation of impressionable minds goes:
“Hindus in Kashmir, Taliban in Kabul
Priests brainwashing Christians in parochial schools
Went after 9/11 and became a Marine
He brought God’s wrath down upon Arabian seeds
An Israeli teen, descendant of a Holocaust survivor
now committs genocide in Gaza
And these fake clerics make fatwas for the last intifada
send suicide bombers like lambs to the slaughter
Men rob me of honor with the mask of a martyr
and claim they killin’ in the name of the Father
When you think this world can’t sink any farther
see the tricks these demons got in store for tomorrow”
Completely unrelated, “The Big Pharma” puts on blast the pharmaceutical industry and its “drug dealers in lab coats.” “Honor in Sin” can be recommended to fans of the acts that once gathered under the Army of the Pharaohs banner. Skill-wise I.Sheik can hang with the likes of Outerspace (“Home Invasion”), Sabac Red (“Pay Dues”) or Reef the Lost Cauze (“They Must All…”), but like the aforementioined he’s also prone to bring up serious topics that are of general interest.