In 1991, Public Enemy released “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” an outspoken critique of Arizona Senator John McCain and the state’s decision to no longer honor the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. The clip featured an attack on a public figure opposed to the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and was subsequently banned by several media outlets. Nearly 20 years later, Arizona is making headlines for Senate Bill 1070, which was aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal aliens. The state is also dealing with a violent shooting attack of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several innocent bystanders.
Chuck recently collaborated with Ravi Dosaj—the artist responsible for RZA’s re-imagining of George Washington crossing the Delaware—on a limited run of commemorative art.
“My song was nominally about finger pointing in Arizona and the hypocrisies there, but it was as much about Reagan telling Gorbachev to ‘tear down that wall,’” Chuck explained to Jeff Weiss in the Los Angeles Times’ Pop & Hiss blog. “Really, what’s the difference between anti-immigration and anti-communism?”
Chuck says he became familiar with Dosaj’s work via the RZA piece. The Public Enemy front man also pointed to a long history of Arizona residents embracing a sort of manifest destiny mentality in regards to their territory. While Chuck was quick to point out all Arizona residents didn’t share that view, he did encourage more sharing of each other’s cultures.
The full Pop & Hiss interview is available at the Times’ official site. More information on the By the Time I Get to Arizona artwork, including an opportunity to pre-order the piece, is available at theartofchuckd.com.