Mr. Lif describes his current state of mind as a purgatory. Six months after his tour bus flipped off the side of a highway and plunged 30 feet down, the hip-hop artist sounds reflective.
"I was finishing a bowl of cereal, watching Anchorman with my friends," Lif says. "Next thing I know, it was pitch black. It was the loudest noise I had ever heard. Furniture was going everywhere. The bus caught on fire. It happened in the desert at 3 a.m.
"Luckily, people were driving by and were kind enough to stop and take my friends and I to the hospital. People were airlifted out of the accident. I got out with a sneaker and a sock on and my cell phone. I had a friend who lost a lot of flesh on her hand. I had to use the sock as a tourniquet. It was straight carnage."
Until now, the story on Lif has been his politically charged lyrics. On the same level as Dead Prez, and employing the same tools of Chuck D and N.W.A. before him, Lif compiled one of the first post-9/11 reaction albums, narrating the story (fictional, mind you) of a government kidnapping at a concert. The subsequent tracks reveal Lif's thoughts on the welfare system, racial profiling and President Bush.
(Hint: He's not fond of any of the three.)
His first full-length, I, Phantom, focused on corporate control and class inequity. Like Lif's 2002 EP, Emergency Rations, it's a concept album, beginning in a nightmare, moving throughout a 9-to-5 day, the chronicling of the breakdown of family structure and climaxing with apocalypse.
Lif resisted the designation of "political rapper" and introduced more personal songs on his latest record, Mo' Mega, which came out in 2006.
Since the bus accident, Lif hardly acknowledges that record. He said that era anything prior to the accident, even his 2006 album doesn't exist to him any more.
"When people hear my new material, it'll have new elements on it," he says. "It'll be a return to some things people do like about me. It'll be a grand narrative, have an overall theme, having to do with a story that will run through the whole album."
As he reinvents himself, Lif is touring select regions of the country; he'll play three shows in Colorado before taking a month off. He says parts of his body still ache from the accident. He also says it has changed his perception of life and his career.
"It's pretty tough to figure out how no one died," Lif says. "I would just say that the old Mr. Lif is definitely gone, passed away in that accident. My new identity will be revealed in months to come, when this new [album] is fully realized.
"Part of me wants to be away from the world. I've always been an introvert. Now even more so. [But] now I'm a grown man who fully understands how powerful life is. If it were up to me, I wouldn't even be seen for the next year. But the reality is, you have to do shows and keep your life financially viable. And when I'm on stage now, it's almost a vengeful-type experience."
Mr. Lif with The Pirate Signal and The Gream Team
The Black Sheep,
2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, May 26, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day of show; call 866/468-7621 or visit ticketweb.com.