Of all the CDs Wise Intelligent has released since 1990, Wise Intelligent Iz ... The Talented Timothy Taylor is his most personal. Wise wears his own name on the new album and opens up about his experiences, a side of himself that listeners of music from his group Poor Righteous Teachers haven't met.
From his home in Philadelphia, the Trenton, N.J. native explains why his new album reaches beyond the esoteric "Gods and Earths" lyrics he kicked with PRT.
"I wanted to go back and revisit the environment that shaped the behavior and the attitudes that created Poor Righteous Teachers, because we never showed that on any of our records," Wise says. "It came across sometimes as if we were speaking of an unattainable state of existence on our records, whereas, with this record, I wanna let heads know that we didn't graduate from college. Our parents weren't wealthy.
"We were where the majority of our black youths in the country are (today). We've been those kids on the corner, and we've been those kids in the correctional facilities. (With) this record, I had to revisit those things to remind people that I'm a human being.
I'm a mortal guy, and this is the role that I took."
Wise also says that once youth examine themselves and their own environments from a global perspective, they'll discover how environment shapes and modifies behavior.
"The 'gangsta' behavior was created by the modification of your environment," Wise says. "The drug dealer is not an indigenous African or black creation. The drug dealer is a creation of an environment that is imposed upon you. That's what I'm getting across in the song 'Genocide.'
"In that song, I go back and I break down the entire crack trafficking game. I take it back to the war in Nicaragua and let heads know that this was an entire cocaine movement in our community that was literally orchestrated and planned by your government to finance a war in Central America."
On the CD, Wise's narratives are far-ranging, as he reminisces of lessons his late mother taught him on "Mama Cry," the atmosphere of the housing projects he grew up in on "Summer in da 'Jects" or a couple who makes their living selling marijuana on "Ganja Smugglin'."
Wise consistently focuses on stirring the consciousness of poor people by championing "knowledge of self" instead of encouraging them to idolize wealth. And he feels the need to express now, more than ever, "It's no longer smart to be dumb," the album's underlying message.
"The slogan speaks to the idea that we have developed and that we have succumbed to: that it's profitable to be dumb," Wise says. "We believe it when Jay-Z said, 'I dumbed down my lyrics and I doubled my dollars.' So we believe that by 'dumbing down' and subscribing to simplicity on a level that tinkers on sheer ignorance we're being smart because we're making money from it.
"(But) how profitable is it, in terms of what happens in your community, as a result of you dumbing down your lyrics? When we dumb down the lyrics, we double the homicide rate. When we dumb down the lyrics, we double the H.I.V./AIDS rate. When we dumb down the lyrics, we double the teenage pregnancy rate, the dropout rate, every other negative thing that happens when you're dumb!"
Where socially-conscious Hip Hop had a prominent following in the late '80s and the early '90s, today's listening audience is often unaware that this side of the culture exists.
"The DJ has always been the foundation of Hip Hop," Wise says. "The DJ was who created Hip Hop. It's sad, but thinking back, Poor Righteous Teachers got their record deal based on (DJ) Red Alert breaking the record.
"Now that DJs can't break the records, we're all being robbed, not just the conscious MC who might have been able to get his records played but the fan also, because now the fan doesn't have a true choice. We don't have a true choice. Everybody loses when the DJ doesn't have any power to break records."
Fortunately, the Internet is an alternative means of exposure, and Wise's music can be found on myspace.com/ wiseintelligent, where songs from the new album, released July 17, are posted. Overall, Wise describes The Talented Timothy Taylor as a "throwback of when (MCs) had to be ill."
"It's a throwback to that era when you had to know how to do what you say you do or you would be challenged on it," Wise explains. "It's a perfect merger between style and substance. It's telling the conscious MC, 'You don't have to lack style to be conscious. You can be conscious and rhyme over the same beats that Lil' Wayne is rhyming over.'
"None of that matters. And I'm saying to the mainstream MC, the gangsta, the thug, the baller, the player — I'm saying to him that he don't have to be soft to say something socially or politically relevant. He don't have to be soft to read a book."
WISE INTELLIGENT performs at the 11th annual SCRIBBLE JAM Friday evening at Annie's.