Intifada :: Truth to Power :: CDBaby
as reviewed by Aaron Weaver

For those who don't know, including me before I looked it up, Intifada is "an uprising among Palestinian Arabs of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, beginning in late 1987 and continuing sporadically into the early 1990's, in protest against continued Israeli occupation of these territories." However, this is just a definition quoted from a dictionary and simply reading the broad description doesn't evoke many emotions. This is what most Americans see the Middle East struggles as: a broad description of whatever our media decides is important for us to know. The common result is changing the channel because American Idol is on. If we simply heard some of the more personal horror stories, our view would change. If we saw some uncensored video of the current situation, then we might truly feel for these people. If we actually witnessed the suffering then we'd realize that there people in the same world as us that can't escape torment and oppression, while all we have to do is flip the channel.

So likewise, if I just told you Intifada is a hip-hop group that uses live instruments and focuses of various revolutionary ideals, then you probably wouldn't go run out and buy their CD. But if you heard more about them and what they're doing then you might be able to relate to it a little more. "Truth to Power" is their new album and this group is out to show that they're more than just another rap band.

The self-titled track gets the album started on a positive note. The pulsing pianos, live drums and bass guitar show the advantages of using live instruments instead of programmed sounds. They create a much fresher, more flexible sound for the MC, Ramtin Arablouei, and vocalist, Joanna Ford, to speak over. With Ramtin's steady flow almost sounding like Black Thought, the track highly resembles The Roots sound. However, sounding similar to one of the most innovative hip-hop acts ever is not always a bad thing, especially when you sound like them on one of their good days.

"Check it out now, it's that soul supreme style
Rocking it out
Our sounds from towns to lockdowns
Pro brown, white, red, asian, and black
What you thought we was kidding when we spitting the facts
This is all for my people who got nothing to lose
What I rhyme's what I feel
So it's always the truth
And that goes for the folks
Who got something to prove
What you live is a lie like the nightly news
Losers, felons, and rebels just battle to die
If everybody fights now, then who's ready to try??"

"Let 'Em Know" is a bouncing jam that features an addictive keyboard melody that the zombies from MJ's "Thriller" video would rise from their graves for. Although, it's clear that they're adept at delivering a danceable groove, the album is not only capable of moving bodies but also moving thoughts.

"Bullets Remain" is a tempo-changing whirlwind of violins and electric guitars that are backed by a pulsing bassline and ethereal harmonies from vocalist Padma Soundararajan. A frantic Ramtin pleads only two phrases throughout the whole song, "When the politics die, only the bullets remain," and "They're coming for me, they're coming for you." The result is a powerfully entrancing track that provides a strange amount of reflection and thought considering the lack of instructions. The delivery of phrases gives them more meaning throughout and the instruments bleed with compassion, distress, and a pressing sense of uprising. When the final violin chord fades and you're left with silence, you feel a little closer to your soul.

"Think" is a philosophical gem found beneath the soothing bassline and contemplative strings and piano keys. Ramtin offers thoughts that most middle-class Americans (royalty by third-world standards) don't usually think about.

"I was born an Iranian
Though I'm black
I was raised an American
Take it back
To the days I was innocent
Make 'em think
How much life you were missing out
When you blink
Cuz there's people in the world now
Who gotta drink
Out of the dirtiest rivers now
What would you think
If they all dropped dead now
Would you stop?
Cuz the only thing we living for
Is the crop
That'll take over your mind and
Tense your heart
The machines keep hoping I'll
Play my part"

This is music with a message. And fortunately for them, and us, the vehicle they use to get it across is sublime instrumentation. The MC doesn't force his ideals down your throat and he doesn't order an aroused revolution, he simply plants seeds and questions in your mind, letting you decide whether or not to water them. On that note, I have only one question for you: Do you like raw, undomesticated music? If so, then look no further than this album for the water.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: May 31, 2005