Doug E. Fresh performs for students at Cal U - NewsDoug E. Fresh performs for students at Cal U - News

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson portrait.An American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is one of the nation’s most influential and renowned public intellectuals.

His pioneering scholarship has had a profound effect on American ideas. His first book, 1993’s Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism, helped establish the field of black American cultural studies. His next book, 1994’s Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X, was named one of the most important African-American books of the 20th century.

Dyson’s first book on Martin Luther King, 2000’s I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., made a significant contribution to King scholarship by recovering the radical legacy of the slain civil rights leader. According to book industry bible Publisher’s Weekly, his 2001 book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, helped to make books on hip-hop commercially viable.

His 2006 book, Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, was the first major book on Katrina and probed the racial and class fallout from the storm. His most recent book, Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson, offers a sampling of his sharp wit, profound thought, and edifying eloquence on the enduring problems of humanity, from love to justice, and the latest topics of the day, including race and the presidency.

Dyson taught at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

He has appeared on The Today Show, Nightline, O’Reilly Factor, The Tavis Smiley Show and Real Time with Bill Maher, and he has cemented his star appeal on such shows as Rap City, Def Poetry Jam and The Colbert Report. He is also a contributing editor of Time magazine.

Dyson’s powerful work has made him what the Washington Post terms a “superstar professor.” His fearless and fiery oratory led the Chronicle of Higher Education to declare that with his rhetorical gifts he “can rock classroom and chapel alike.” 

His legendary rise — from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to a figure who has become what writer Naomi Wolf terms “the ideal public intellectual of our time” — may help explain why author Nathan McCall calls him “a street fighter in suit and tie.”

Dyson is currently a professor of sociology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Doug E. Fresh

Doug E. Fresh performing for fans.Harlem native and hip-hop innovator Doug E. Fresh is the originator of the human beat box — vocally simulating the sound of drums and other musical instruments. Best known for the two-sided, multi-platinum hits "The Show" and "La Di Da Di," he was the first rapper to play Africa and the Caribbean, heralding the global popularity of hip-hop.
 
Fresh has embraced hip-hop activism and used his voice to speak out against a variety of social ills. Along the way, he has nurtured rising talent, including MC Ricky D (aka Slick Rick), P. Diddy, Biz Markie and numerous newcomers during his stint as host of “It's Showtime” at the Apollo Theater in New York.

Throughout his 20-year career, Fresh has performed or recorded with fellow rap legends, including Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Eminem, P. Diddy and Dr. Dre. He also has worked with artists in reggae (Beenie Man, Sly & Robbie and Poppa San), R&B (Prince, Roberta Flack, Chaka Kahn and Stevie Wonder), jazz (George Benson, Grover Washington and Bobbie McFerrin) and gospel (Rev. Robert Lowe and Generations).

Fresh has appeared in such films as Brown Sugar, Paid in Full, Whiteboys and Let's Get Bizzee, and he has written songs for Ghostbusters II, Get on the Bus, CB4, New Jack City and The Sixth Man. He has performed on television, and written music for McDonalds, Coors, Gatorade and Tanqueray commercials. The National Basketball Association selected his hit "I-Ight" as a theme song for MTV's NBA Slam & Jam Wrap-Up Show.

Fresh recently made an appearance on American Idol, performing alongside runner-up Blake, and he is working on an animated children's book, Think Again!, for Scholastics.

A tireless hip-hop activist, Fresh has fought against racism, drugs, illiteracy, police brutality and homelessness in communities around the world. A vocal proponent of artists' rights, he's a hands-on board member of The Artist Empowerment Coalition.

"Hip-hop is supposed to uplift and create, to educate people on a larger level and to make a change," said Fresh. "Hip-hop artists need to grow to use it like that, not just to get some paper.

"My career has been a hell of a ride, and there's so much more to come," he added. "People can look to me as a teacher, but I consider myself a student of hip-hop. I'm forever learning, and that's why I'm always able to create new styles and new dimensions of hip-hop."

Dead Prez

Portrait of Dead Prez.Formed in Florida and now based in New York, Dead Prez has been crafting revolutionary but gangsta-style hip-hop since the late 1990s.

Taking inspiration from the life and social activism of Malcolm X, Sticman and M-1, the duo who comprise Dead Prez, have released two proper albums, two underground mix-tapes and two solo albums of street-level political hip-hop that challenges the status quo.

Stic Man and M-1 first started collaborating when they met on the campus of Florida A&M University. Once they moved to New York, the group dubbed themselves Dead Prez, after "dead presidents" — a slang term for money and a reminder that too many people are "dead" to self-knowledge and should be the rightful “presidents” of their own lives.

The group signed with Loud Records and in 1997 appeared on the Loud 97 Set Up tape, with "Food, Clothes and Shelter." They went on to release the singles "Police State With Chairman Omali" and "It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop," followed by their debut for Loud/RCA/BMG, Let's Get Free, in 2000.

In 2002 and 2003, the group added a two-volume mix-tape project, Turn off the Radio, infusing hits by Aaliyah, Black Rob, and the Notorious B.I.G. with their political ideals. In 2004, Dead Prez released RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta on Columbia Records.

In June 2006, the cable movie network Starz In Black began airing an original documentary, Dead Prez: It's Bigger Than Hip Hop, featuring live footage and interviews with the duo. Among the topics discussed in the documentary are the inadequacies of the public education system, minority entrepreneurship and social revolution.

Dead Prez also was featured in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, released in 2006.

More mix-tape and solo releases followed, including the third and fourth installments of Turn off the Radio, in 2009 and 2010. Dead Prez also collaborated with the renowned DJ Green Lantern to create Pulse of The People, an album of original songs released in sustainable “green” packaging.

Now signed to two major labels, the members of Dead Prez continue to tour globally, release solo projects and manage a full multi-media brand, Boss Up, Inc.