Public Enemy


I still find it really hard to get my head around the level of impact that Public Enemy’s music and message has had on communities and individuals all over the world. From their conception in the early eighties, classic tracks such as ‘Fight the Power’, ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’, ‘Give it Up’ and the timeless ‘Bring the Noise’ have kept them loved by Hip Hop fans all over the world, with new generations still showing the same ecstatic interest they received in their early years. But you probably know all this by now, so I’ll shut up and get on a direct line to Chuck D, who is somewhere in New York waiting to go and get his Momz a birthday present, but like a true gent, he very kindly spares up some time to talk to Outline… so after pleasantries are exchanged, we get straight down to business! 

You will be playing in Norwich this month, on the Public Enemy 20th Anniversary of tour of ‘It takes a Nation of Millions’. I wondered why you considered doing an anniversary tour?
(Laughs)…well we tour, so it’s not one of those things really. We thought that this might be a slightly different way of looking at touring…

Are you taking it to the rest of Europe as well?
These days I don’t really have the time to do massive tours. See, when you tour, you don’t really have much of a life…  

Do you enjoy touring then?
It’s always a great thing y’know. The worst thing about it is that you don’t get enough time in the year to do all the things you want to do. Being ‘itinarised’ is an issue, but when it comes down to playing, the gig is fantastic, the travelling is fantastic, the problem is, the time that’s spent doing all that. The older you get, you don’t have the available time to do what you were doin’ when you were twenty years younger. It’s been a continuous rush, y’know what I’m sayin’. I suppose for me the only negative aspect of touring is a good thing. The best thing about being in a great band is that it’s so addictive you become chained to it, it’s like being on a drug. I suppose the problem is that there are very few negative aspects. Well, I mean when you’ve got things going right with the band -with Public Enemy there are very few bad things ‘cause it’s good most of the time.    

How do you view the current Hip Hop scene globally?
I don’t think that the organisation and the administration is there that acknowledges the great efforts from the various parts of the world. We have a genre that’s over 25 years old, but when it comes down to corralling all these talents into an explanation of the genre, I think a lot of the time its short-sighted to the surroundings of a particular journalist and what they’re covering. To me that’s a lack of controlling, managing and administering our shit. With Public Enemy, I kind of look at that as being like The Rolling Stones of the Rap game. But if you look at rock, you find it’s organised, whereas rap isn’t. These guys are playing stadiums, but rap is still being treated like some black bastard music. Sometimes it’s saluted, which means it’s taken to the next level for an individual, and not necessarily for the genre’s sake.

Do you think these problems can be addressed and sorted out to offer a continuation for future generations?
I would say it’s necessary to organise any industry in order for it to go forward. You don’t want the art form to be in the area of scavengery. If it’s good and pays, people will go in there and open it like it’s a refrigerator. Then you’re like a scavenger who never goes shopping again. It has to replenish itself. A lot of people say, “Hey, we have 50 Cent or this act or that act”, but I would say that all around we have to replenish it, from the bottom up, not just at the top. There are a lot of great groups and artists doing great things and using MySpace and You Tube to put up their videos; its all away across the board. So I think that technology is the closest thing we have to organise it. Y’know, the bottom line is, people wanna go out and have a great time, and there’s always someone turning 18 and 19 for the first time, or someone falling in love for the first time and there’s always someone indoctrinated in the club or party life, whilst someone else is retiring. But the music is the thing that lives on, so you have to try and have some kind of standard somewhere. I don’t think that the standard is in talent, it should be in skill and effort. Pure effort is the thing that keeps people curious and coming back…I got my fill of it now!        

Moving on, I read in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago that Jessie Jackson had been standing next to Martin Luther King when he was assassinated, and because of his proximity, he’d felt compelled to dedicate his life to the teachings of Dr. King. So firstly, I wondered how far you think Dr. Kings ideals had been achieved in modern America? And also if you feel Rev. Jackson has been successful in carrying on MLK’s message?
I think Rev. Jackson and others have carried on the teachings of Martin Luther King quite well. Who am I to judge? Regarding society, Dr. King had preached a lot of things as far as making people aware there was a humane level to all of this. People now at least recognise, (whether they act upon it or not) that Dr. King at least put his foot forward and epitomised that effort. I don’t think you can make anybody do anything, and we don’t have control over time, in the long run or in the end, it makes the most sense to realise we can’t go anywhere else, but be on this planet, so I think what Dr. King was talking about was how to co-exist with each other as much as possible while we are here.   

So apart from Acting, Radio Presenting, Writing, Lecturing and being an MC in  the baddest hip hop band of all time, what does Chuck D enjoy doing in his down time?
I like to drive, and for hours at a time…

Right, I have a quick-fire three-parter for you…

1. Did you ever think you’d live long enough to see a black president in America?
Yeah of course; well y’know, at least a black in the running. So yeah of course, I mean that’s something you always think, “why not?” as opposed to “why”…
2. Do you think Barrack Obama will be elected?
I don’t know, but I’m voting for him for all the right and all the wrong reasons…
3. How successful do see him being if elected? 
I think he’ll have to withstand twice as much pressure as anyone else who has been in that particular office. I think he’ll be scrutinised, he’ll be criticised and he’ll need a very tough interior and exterior to handle the bullshit. But he has my support. To me it’s not a joke, there’s the election, and then there’s the day after, and I’m always thinking about the day after – the job, as opposed to the euphoria of the election…

When Bush finally stands down (or hopefully falls down before then), what will be your biggest reason to celebrate?
I won’t celebrate, ‘cause there ain’t gonna be a reason to celebrate. It will be a case of the job that’s now at hand. Why would you celebrate looking at the aftermath of so much debris that looks like some fucked up room, after somebody came in and had a crazy party in your crib…

When you put it in those terms it was a bit of a idiotic question…
(Laughs)…I mean not only does someone come in and fuck up your rug, but they damned near laid a fire in your crib. It is gonna be a major clean up job, so there’ll be no sipping of the champagne. For you guys over in the UK, you see somebody having to go through the currency exchange and it’s a tragedy; it’s a tragedy for you to even remain living there because you have to struggle at those particular rates. It’s great when you go someplace else, but the cost of things is over the top…man, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In the last few years the United States has been terrible on Foreign Policy, so much to the extent that there’s not a clear cut way to build it back, so yeah, there’s a lot of work to do. I think the best thing you can do is pace yourself if you are person who is in the middle, and then figure out the best way you can get it done. 


‘The Revolution will not be Televised’…but chances are you’ll be able to catch it moments later on YouTube – can i ask your opinion on the changes the internet has created regarding the music industry as a whole?
(Laughs) You can Google me on that one! I mean I’m drained on trying to prove my love, y’know. Then everyone came around and gave Radiohead all the credit in the world for doing what they did…(laughs) so what can I say anymore…

Finally, you played here in Norwich, five years ago. I wondered if you remembered your day here? And if you have any lasting memories of our fine City?
I have a lasting memory from the first time we played there. It was at the same venue each time, at the University. So that’s what I remember from Norwich – the first time we played there. The last time, was a remembrance of the first time…(laughs)!


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