If you don’t know what low class America (or low class Amerika) sounds like, Minneapolis-based MC I Self Devine (aka Chaka Mkali) defines it for you on his charged 2012 album. The Sound of Low Class Amerika, out on Rhymesayers (the label founded and made famous by Midwest rappers Atmosphere and Musab) addresses issues particular to working class communities, with songs ranging from “Power” dynamics to “Cycles” of oppression and “Living Under Siege.” In his spare time, I Self Devine is also a community organizer, graffiti artist and muralist and a member of hip-hop crews Micranots, Semi Official and Dynospectrum.
I Self Devine’s latest politically conscious album is a strong effort, especially in its lyrics and delivery. Featuring guest rapper Brother Ali, the funky-bluesy album mixes traditional hip-hop beats with soulful and jazzy hooks. I Self’s first record in seven years is well worth the wait—I Self is one of the few MCs unafraid of speaking on political struggles people need to confront. While the beats will have you shaking, I Self’s greatest strengths are in his narratives. On “Exist to Remain,” I Self Devine spits, “I can’t help I see the world different/Protests and rallies kept my mind shifting”–and good thing he does. When rap and general culture become conformist, underground MCs like Mkali make it their duty to shatter the status quo. So listen, jam out, and stick your fist to the man.