"My people dying in the hood - it's all out war," he raps in the song. "We hate each other, self-esteem is out the door. We kill ourselves, got the barrel pointed at our brother. We gotta organize our lives and turn and fight the others. I'm sick of crying, people dying almost every day. The rest of us, they're trying to frame us up and lock away. ... We've got to unify or die, that's the only way."
"People say black people are crazy," Allah says. "We aren't literally crazy, but we're crazy because of all the things we're dealing with. If you're not crazy, something is wrong with you."
The men view themselves as dangerous for speaking the truth and proffering a version of militancy, albeit one that's about books rather than guns. But for all the political spikiness, many of their songs are downright sweet. Allah is engaged, and the other two have wives and kids they write about in between the calls for unity and economic independence.
"We gonna make it work and raise a family, you want me there with you, I want you here with me," goes the song "Here With Me."
When young black men hear their elders talking about love - genuine love for families and friends - they see it's not a sign of weakness and it gives them the courage to show their feelings, Allah says.
"We wait until someone is killed on the street," he says. "then there's this abundance of love you want to express. ... Say that now, while he's here. Don't wait until something tragic happens."
It turns out writing music with a point and a brain is a lot more difficult than churning out standard fare, they say, as the afternoon slips by and a handful of customers stop in for $13 cuts or $17 cut-shave combinations.
"It's easy to rap about dope, women, sex, alcohol," Allah says. "It's easy to write about those things because that's what you see all the time."
In rap laced with hope, "you have to use your imagination and see what it's like without those things," he says. "Imagine a better way."
They didn't used to talk like that.
Natur says he became radicalized after watching Spike Lee's 1992 movie Malcolm X. He dropped out of a police cadet program to become what he calls "a freedom fighter." Toula, a buddy since high school when the two were inseparable, followed suit. "This brother sat down and studied with me and opened my mind," he says.
Allah was a mouthy child with big ideas. People used to call him Frederick Douglass, he says. He strayed away from that in high school, but a couple years ago, he started working at Conscious Heads Barber Shop and picked up where he left off.
Now their world view sells for $10. They made 3,000 CDs, which they are selling in their shop and will eventually sell on their Web site, solvivaznation .com.
Though Conscious Heads has performed locally and has gotten radio airtime here and there, it isn't famous yet. But it has sold a lot of the CDs and has zealous fans among customers, families and the young people in the organization.
"I listen to it every day," says Antiquity Keprah, a 17-year-old with long, pinkish braids. "It's like a real change compared to the hip-hop you hear on the radio. It delivers a message."
"There's nothing but positivity in here," says J.C. Cus, 29, while Allah trims his hair. "They made me more conscious of what's going on."
As he pulls on a blue hat and prepares to leave, he says he's a new man. "I got a haircut and I learned something," he says.
Plenty of hip-hop artists, including Common, Dead Prez and other homegrown groups such as Conscious Heads, have more on their minds than the glorification of consumerism and violence. The barbers see the slow ascension of such groups as a sign that the hip-hop winds are shifting.
"You had all the money, you had all the women. After that you have to grow up," Allah says.
Hip-hop is under a cloud, Toula says. "It's dark and gloomy now, but the light and sun is about to come and bring brightfulness, happiness and understanding," he says.
"It's going to change for better," Natur says, "as long as we have something to do with it."
For a sampling of the music, go to baltimoresun.com/rap.