Public Enemy: Another Revoution!

posted July 16, 2002 12:00:00 AM CDT | 0 comments

Hip-hop is a liquid art form. It changes shape quicker than you can grasp it. Whatever you think will be the bomb will probably fail and whoever you think will never make it past basement parties and demo tapes will probably blow up. The slang I used in that last sentence ("the bomb" and "blow up") is now as pass as "fresh" and "dope" but, what other words would you use when they were coined by a cultural icon. To stay in the hip-hop world for 20 years, as Chuck D has, is no small feat. The 42-year-old Chuck D has seen it all, and he has pushed hip-hop in many new directions.

His voice has become synonymous with not only Public Enemy but the many different hip-hop, and even house and techno songs, that sample it. Yet it was his artist creativity, not his voice, that got Chuck D involved with the hip-hop recording world.

So how did you get your start in Hip Hop?

CHUCK D: I went to school as a graphic design major. When the first rap record came out, Sugar Hill, in October of 1979, it struck a bell in my brain. I said, "Well, with a record out, there's a recording industry. With a recording industry, they're going to need graphics.

I remember when I picked up the "Yo, Bum Rush The Show" CASSETTE...I think I was about 15-16 already out of my parents house making life decisions...What do you think....about the PE then...and the PE now? The Chuck D then and the Chuck D now?

CHUCK D: We talking 15 years ago, a LOT has happened. The art that we produced 15 years ago had and still has a direct affect. As I look back now...I think that even though the music can be reproduced, we can't reproduce those times. And I promised myself at the beginning of this that I would never do the same thing twice. If you look at the total of PE's work, all of the albums, you will find that each one is different. Their stand alones in their own right but, we make the music and we stand by it. You either love it or hate it. We have never been the type of group that ever has made a record just for people to love it.

Do you think you're unique in hip-hop, wanting to take a lot of concern and common sense into what you're saying?

CHUCK: Yeah. Yeah, that's unique. Unique, I have a 15-year recording career. It's unique that I've been in rap and hip-hop for 20 years. And it's unique that I have a concern for what I put down because I believe words can resonate. I believe words can spark action.

What were your influences?

CHUCK D: All of Black society. I'm 42 now and my musical influences range greatly from Marvin Gaye, Ike & Tina to Gil Scott Heron. But, i have also been influenced culturally by Dr. King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and many more "social" icons.

The name of the new album..."Revolverlution" what do you mean by that?

CHUCK D: It's a term that represents our coming full circle and all that we've represented to the different people of the world. It's a revolution in music...forward thinking and future plans. This album is a revolution unto itself. With the different approaches that we have taken with live bands, percussion and the interaction that you can have using various technologies.

You have 20 tracks on "Revolverlution". You've got 3 three fan remixes and you have some live shows on this cd. How did you choose?

CHUCK D: We are allowing the public to reshape our past with these remixes...again, I go back to technology and it's influence today. Now we can directly interact with our fan base and find that new talent thats out there.

Is it time for Hip Hop to become radical and political again....Russell Simmons is attempting to establish a hip hop action network...should Hip Hop have a political agenda?

CHUCK D: Negativity, you know, is very easy to spread. Positivity is rowing upstream where you want the end result to be peace, love and harmony for all coexisting species on the planet as well as your fellow man and woman. And that's the ultimate goal . . . The concept of race is silly and stupid. I mean, the fact that people judge on their individual characteristics is a wicked, White supremacy plan that is spread all over the world. And it is so saturated in the West that a lot of people just can't get out from underneath those concepts. And we, Black Americans have much to work on...that's the purpose of the "in your face" attitude.

Your battles with the labels/record co. and the forming of slamjamz.com. Is that important for you, having people on the Internet get the chance to really start that discussion about what you're putting on the web and taking the power away from the big labels?

CHUCK D: It's the most important vehicle for us ever because what we're gonna be heading into is a time where the computer or the PC, or whatever it is, lets you get a chance to step into that world and dictate. You can't get more powerful than that.

Other artists out there; some say there isn't any "substance" or "message" left in Hip Hop now due to commercialization. Your thoughts?

CHUCK D: I like a pretty girl, but c'mon! If the video has no women in it does that mean no one's gonna look at the video? A lot of these cats at the record company just want to get the profit and then end up cutting [the artist] off. That's the thing that hurts the most because it's not building the genre, it's making a profit for the company because they only have to deal with the artist once. Now to me, talent-wise, in Hip Hop, I think there's more talent than ever before. More talent, but less skill, less direction, and more people subservient to the contract they sign. The problem is that people are forced to keep their wings to their sides to keep their contract to make that hit for that company. And that's making talented cats say the same thing that the next guy is saying.

You say your songs aren't written for kids, yet your songs have done more for me personally, especially when I was a kid than any other group. What rap music would you say, is for kids then? Why shouldn't kids listen to your positive music?

CHUCK D: Well, I think some records I do can be for kids. I don't believe that a lot of the songs that I do are just for kids unless they have those navigational skills to understand exactly what I'm saying. Wyclef does a good job sometimes. Lauyrn, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes to a certain degree. Often times I might do things a little too hardcore and direct, but people might misconstrue is like "Okay, he's coming so hardcore and direct. DMX is saying the same thing" Umm...(laughter)...okay. But I'll come hardcore and direct and say make it available to a kid after 12 years old or 14 years old.

Has Public Enemy's music and message always taken place in the future, or is the world just too slow to catch on?

CHUCK D: I would always like to make records...I've always made records like...almost like...you throw a rock all the way at the front of the lake, then let it go...okay I see the rock. I would always like to make records that I would have to try to keep up with...whether it's good or bad. Try to keep up with it.

What's coming up for P.E. and slamjamz.com?

CHUCK D: We have a lot going on with release of "Revolverlution" in itself...but, Flava has a new album coming out soon as well as a group from out of the midwest called "The Imposseblls"...and also we have to figure out whether we are going to start with a US tour in August or head over to Europe first...there's much goings on.

Thank you again, Chuck it was good talking to you.

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