New Hip-Hop Album Says Leonard Peltier Got a Bad Rap

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While many of us were helping ourselves to servings of turkey, stuffing and other offerings of the annual feast last Thursday, jailed American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier continued to serve time on consecutive life sentences.

Peltier has spent more than three decades imprisoned for the killing of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. Believing it to be unjust, various hip-hop artists have come together in common cause for a new compilation album.
Released on Thanksgiving, Free Leonard Peltier: Hip Hop's Contribution to the Freedom Campaign enlists the services of heavyweight conscious rappers Talib Kweli, Dakaa from Dilated Peoples, Immortal Technique, M1 of Dead Prez, and 2Mex. A-Ron, executive producer of the album, says in its notes that the mission of the compilation "is to highlight a case that clearly is an abuse of the legal standards of American justice."

After an introduction by Chairman Fred Hamption Jr., Dakaa and 2Mex get right to business on Free Leonard Peltier's stand out track "Right the Wrong." The Dilated Peoples MC sums up the spirit of the collective effort when he rhymes "Human rights organizations are trying to right this wrong / The least I could do is write this song" while a following chorus sampling Native American flutes echoes case related samples.

Immortal Technique's spot is a simple soap box statement of support with no backing music. Other tracks, such as "When I Rhyme" featuring Talib Kweli, veer off message but strengthen the overall album with their inclusion. A lesser known artist, Mama Wisdom of the Bay Area Goddess Alchemy Project, excels on "Trail of Tears" mixing poetry reading, rhymes and singing in exhibiting a multifaceted creativity. 

With the "Incident at Oglala" and its aftermath--a history recounted in Rage Against the Machine's "Freedom" music video--now 35 years past, a serious effort to free Leonard Peltier last came at the end of the Clinton presidency. Back then, clemency for the jailed activist was not granted--a point the album harshly criticizes.

President Obama enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Native American community in his 2008 electoral victory. If he chooses not to grant clemency like those before him, then the Free Leonard Peltier compilation album, and not its subject of inspiration, will be all that enjoys release.


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