“We have a saying,” says Rashad Dobbins, vocalist in D.C. hip-hop sextet The Cornel West Theory. “IYFF — In Your F*****g Face.”
That intensity is in full force on “G.O.D.,” a track from The Cornel West Theory’s new album Coming From The Bottom, as Dobbins and vocalist/producer Tim Hicks discuss drone warfare in photorealistic detail.
“I decided to address an issue that most MCs are afraid to,” says Hicks. Dobbins is on the same page. “It’s a very troublesome feeling when you see society entering a digital-militant state.”
The duo pulls no punches on “G.O.D.”: Citing present facts, they forecast a grim future deprived of safety and privacy. The song’s video drives the point home with war footage, clips from sci-fi films and images of world leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama — or as Dobbins calls him, “the drone president.”
Notably, the song features vocals recorded over the phone with journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who’s spent the last 33 years in prison, charged with a murder that many say he did not commit. A chilling sample of Abu-Jamal uttering “drones” punctuates the song’s anxious verses.
Hicks says he’s been in touch with Abu-Jamal since 2013.
“I became totally absorbed with his cause and the issue of his freedom, and began tracking down people within the movement to get him released,” Hicks says. “I have spoken with him both through letter and occasionally by phone. I’m a friend of his family.”
Abu-Jamal is one of several prominent activists and artists on Coming From The Bottom, the group’s first full-length since 2011’s The Shape Of Hip-Hop To Come. Other appearances include rapper Chuck D, community organizer Rosa Clemente and film director Melvin Van Peebles, who is credited with inspiring the project.
“[Van Peebles] told me to make an album that people have to hear, not one they want to,” says Hicks.
“We wanted to make a scathing album that was conscious and brutal,” says Dobbins. “People have been stuck in glam-hop since Bush was in office. We were like, it’s time to behead n****s.”