Over-saturation has plagued Hip-Hop for the last decade, but it comes as a relief effort that Public Enemy has been good for almost an album year since their independency from Def Jam in 1999. Chuck D and his brethren have earned it – whether these works are written and produced by Paris, whether they’re remixed by Internet producers, whether they’re revisits to the ’88 sound or pushing envelopes, all works are performed, toured, dissected, and as sincere as the first time Chuck raised a fist and Flav adorned a giant-sized time-piece.See Also:
Amidst a twentieth anniversary, Public Enemy doesn’t rest, they release. This summer will see How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul. The album marks a reunion with seminal behind-the-scenes Public Enemy producer Gary “G-Wiz” and an explosive sound that pitch-perfectly matches the lyrical aggression and rich social textures. Ask Chuck D about it, and it’s just good music with a message. Every year, I look forward to another P.E. album and another boundless conversation with one of Pop culture’s most recognizable and guiding voices.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve got this track on the new album, “Black is Back” which is another fusion of rap and Rock. That’s something that you’ve been doing since “Bring the Noise” and before. With all that’s going on in the mainstream fusing those two genres, what do you think is the social need or purpose in blending those worlds?
Chuck D: Music is music, and if you know your musical history, you know, quite evidently, that Black music is a source of Rock & Roll. Ignorance is the thing that says that there shouldn’t be any guitar in Black music. That’s an ignorant gesture that shows that a lot of folks ain’t clued into their history. We as Black folks aren’t as clued in as much as we should be, and everybody else seems to fall for the oblivious fact that guitar and Rock & Roll ain’t got nothing to do with us.
One thing that we do as guys in the genre of rap music and Hip-Hop is return it to the roots. The root, as Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc would say, is a knowledge of records. If you have a knowledge of records, you have a knowledge of not only the recording artist, but a knowledge of the musicians involved in making these things that we call beats and grooves. I think that’s an important gesture to say that we can point to The Who as much as we can point to James Brown as much as we can point to a A Tribe Called Quest as much as we can point to Jerry Lee Lewis; it’s all really based out of The Blues. Long story short, Paine, our whole thing is releasing songs, playing around the world, furthering our message.
“This is Gary “G-Wiz’s” record…and almost like an eclipse, every seven years Gary “G-Wiz” does an album. He’s been in there a long time. Everybody else, like Johnny Juice and Keith Shocklee will do something on the next record, so we don’t at one record being better than another. We just look at it as to how it breaks down in how we perform it and how we talk about it.
AllHipHop.com: The seven year eclipse. I like that. This album has a very ‘70s Soul and ‘80s percussion vibe about that. At what stage in the album-making process did you determine that backdrop?
Chuck D: It was basically determined based on the textures and feels of the people inside [Public Enemy]. We don’t get outside producers. We’re in 2007, you’ve got a million producers out there anyway, and we’ve got our own [staff]. We compete and collaborate with each other like Motown [Records] did. It’s up to me to be able to say, “Well, this texture is gonna signify the point of view of this album.” I think the determining fact is also that we’re not trying to prove anything to anybody, and we’re not trying to be judged by anybody; we’re just trying to do our thing and do our thing well. The proof is in the pudding when we take it to the stage to actually perform what we create. That’s how and when we know we’ve done our job.
AllHipHop.com: In addition to releasing this album, how else are you celebrating Public Enemy’s twentieth anniversary?
Chuck D: By being in the United States. [Laughs] We’re gonna cement a lot of main events in the United States and high-profile things. We’ve been fortunate enough to choose our position and choose our points. We’ve always been able to tour whenever we wanted to, wherever we wanted to, and make records whenever and however we wanted to. This year, our twentieth year, we’re gonna anchor down in the United States. You’ve gotta be ready for all the people who are not privy to things, the people who wait for BET and MTV or Rolling Stone or their local urban radio stations to tell them that we’re here. People act like we’ve been gone; we’re right here. We’re touring, we’re very easy to contact. All they’ve got to do is go to the oldest website for a group and that’s PublicEnemy.com. Our innovations were so vast and so early that by the time people got acclimated, they weren’t able to point to the beginning-point of it other than their own. We’re cool with that though. Our thing is to not even do things for ourselves, our thing was always to create avenues and roads that solved problems.
AllHipHop.com: There’s something on this album, lyrically, that I found very interesting. In two places, on “Can You Hear Me Now?” and on the album’s closing refrain that you don’t play videogames. I have to ask, as somebody who feels similarly, why not?
Chuck D: [Laughs] You really listened to the album! Number one, I’m old. Number two, it takes up too much of my time. I’m not gonna say I don’t like them. I think I would have liked them so much that I’d become addicted and I wouldn’t do s**t. You have to make up your mind, Paine. You’re a writer. It’s all about time; you can’t create more time than what time is. You’ve got 24 hours in a day. It’s one thing having something that’s a relief, it’s another if you’re not having time to create. You’re a writer, and every minute of your time, you need to be locking yourself away. If you’re spending time on somebody else’s creation, and you can’t process what you just your spent your time doing, then it doesn’t mean anything. It was escapism like a mothaf**ka! “I drifted into this point to get away, and I don’t know how to equate to what I just did into anything other than being a relief.” Nah, I don’t play videogames because to me, it’s a waste of my time. There’s other ways that I relax than that. This is no knock; I just did a voiceover for Midway for NBA Ballers. But hey, I don’t play the game. I don’t have that expendable time like that. I’d rather spend that time taking my woman out or some s**t like that or watching a game. I don’t have boys; we don’t sit around the table just shooting the s**t. We go around the world when we get together and after we finish being P.E., we go back to our individual families. I don’t spend around a lot of males just talking about s**t.
AllHipHop.com: You’re an avid sports fan. ESPN has been spotlighting Henry Aaron’s record-breaking homerun against Barry Bonds’ impending record. I’m from Pittsburgh originally, so I may be biased…
Chuck D: Oh, well there you go. Did you know that the reason I wear my [Pirates] hat is because of Roberto Clemente?
AllHipHop.com: That’s ill. The first time I bought a P.E. album, it was because I saw you wearing that hat.
AllHipHop.com: Aaron faced a lot of racial prejudice in an overt way. Barry Bonds has faced steroid scrutiny. Who would you rather see hold the record?
Chuck D: I grew up with Hank Aaron; I remember when he hit the homerun, and I cheered for him. Straight up and down, man. Barry Bonds, there ain’t never been like him in sports. I used to say that about Michael Jordan, but I ain’t never seen nothin’ like Barry Bonds, man, ever! It’s to the point where the dude is 40-something-years-old and the best way to pitch to him is to not. [Laughs] I don’t know. It’s America…it’s the old boys network rearing it’s ugly head because of jealousy. To me, Barry Bonds, signifies the middle-finger. “You hate me so much but you can’t stop me.” [Laughs] Seriously man, I ain’t never seen nothing like Barry Bonds, and I been a baseball aficionado since the beginning! I can reverberate baseball history to you like few other. But there ain’t no answer for baseball.
He’s the greatest hitter, greatest ballplayer of all-time. I was a big Bobby Bonds fan [Barry’s father] too. This cat is insane! Baseball’s just gotta figure out how to fix its game, not that I ought to talk ‘cause they’re doing a lot better than rap. [Laughs] It’s a tragedy when it ignores its all-time hit-leader and all-time homerun leader. Then what the f**k do you have?
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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