Chuck D (Public Enemy)

20 years ago Public Enemy emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Chuck D especially became a powerful and influential figure worldwide, speaking out on political and socials matters that caused the C.I.A. to constantly track the entire group. Griff left, reappeared, and stirred up hatred due to racist remarks, which also resulted in 3 attempts on his life. Flava Flav started a reality TV career. And Terminator X walked out for good.

Chuck D is the only forefront member who has never gone back on his word, his beliefs and his ultimate faith in hip hop. The very idea of chatting to him while he sits in his room at the Hilton is overwhelming enough to make me uprock all the way to Jupiter.

As you can imagine, Chuck isn’t the easiest person to get a hold of. The interview time changed several times in the last couple of days. The final change being only minutes before the actual interview; resulting in me legging it up a hill in the rain, drumsticks in hand, to get to a phone.

When Chuck’s bass finally came down the line. After however many weeks, I suddenly felt completely unprepared.

Chuck D (Public Enemy)Nino: Hey, you alright?

Chuck: Yes, I didn’t think the call was gona be at this moment. I have another interview but I could do you right now and when the next one comes up I’ll handle it. Yeh. Let’s do it like, right now.

Nino: Thanks mate…

So, speaking to you now, years on from when Public Enemy first began, you were originally very powerful and influential characters worldwide. How do you think that developed initially?

Chuck: I think it was a combination of being able to get outside the U.S. and getting our passports and being able to speak for truth and justice in an international way, and that’s pretty much what we’ve been about.

Nino: Do you think there were certain people trying to bring you down?

Chuck: Always. I think we came in understanding that. We definitely knew that was gona happen.

Nino: Yes. A sad fact I guess. What do you think about any of the mainstream so called hip hop artists such as 50 Cent’s affect on today’s youth?

Chuck: If kids – young people, don’t have the truth then they can be steered in another way by just following culture and fashion and what’s sold to them as being something that’s supposed to be their particular uniform.

Nino: Definitely. How did you get involved with the Nation Of Islam?

Chuck: Through association with people who were in my group that actually came through their ranks and so upon visiting them I found it was something similar to a lot of interests I had.

Nino: How has it helped you?

Chuck: It’s taken me in all parts of the world that I think mainstream bookies and different areas of business industry organisations wouldn’t have chosen those places as an option as apposed to with the nation of Islam I’ve travelled to south America, Africa and parts of Asia and the whole 3rd world situation necessarily is off the radar. Out to like the William Morrison of the world. (chuckles)

Nino: I know Griff’s a member as well. What’s your opinion on the anti Semitic remarks he made a while back?

Chuck: I think he was talking about black people first and then it just went off in another direction. I guess when you talk about black people in the first term, then automatically everyone gets defensive. Especially back then in the European press. I think in the European press there’s the whole thing about Israel and Palestine. You’ll get a Western European point of view and it’ll be adversarial if you don’t choose the Israeli point of view.

Nino: Totally. The media tell the haters what they want to hear, and if you make a remark that’s somewhat unconventional it’s blown up worldwide.

Chuck D (Public Enemy)

Let’s talk about the new album. Was there a particular group of people or a new audience you felt you were writing it for?

Chuck: There’s always a new audience. As far as you wona look, every 5 year years a new generation of people feel that they come into their own and think that they know it all. But they need to learn to good and bad and not just to learn it from the outside they definitely want to experience it.

Nino: Yeh… You know as a drummer and B-girl something I’ve noticed as hip hop has ‘evolved’ is how the beats have lost importance. Whereas with Public Enemy you still have the old school drums, especially on the new album. Was that a conscious decision on behalf of the breakers or is it just something you guys do naturally?

Chuck: We have to be able to sometimes act our age. Our ages at a different time we have to give homage and respect to different aspects of music. But at the same time – not be afraid to act our age and be able to present things in a manner that we know how.

Nino: Fair enough. Are there any U.K. artists you’re feeling at the moment?

Chuck: Black Twang and Sway and Dizzee Rascal from a couple of years ago. I haven’t heard anybody like brand new ‘as of the moment’ but I’m hearing about people like Echo and Bizzle. You know so…

(Here I pause wondering whether or not to drop some names. But knowing the list of ‘why didn’t you say me’ I’ll get I quite rightly keep my gob shut).

Chuck D (Public Enemy)Nino: Wicked. Is there anything else you want to tell the British audience?

Chuck: I’m really happy that the British rappers, DJs and graffiti artists and those that hold themselves closer to the elements have held their own by identifying with themselves in the first person as apposed to copying and following someone else. It’s very important and I’m proud that they have their own zone and they support their own zone.

Nino: Mint. I’ll guess I’ll have to wrap it up there seen as you’ve got another interview waiting. But as somebody whose soul basically lives on practising hip hop I just want to say thanks for creating Public Enemy and saying things that needed to be said while creating some purely classic tracks.

Chuck: I appreciate it. Thankyou.

Yes, I did have to bite my leg when he didn’t mention breakers in his hip hop elements list but I actually got through the entire interview without Flava Flav coming up once. And THANK GOD for that. To all the people who obsess over that one question – there is rarely an interview where the subject isn’t brought up. So go look at someone else’s. Because my whole point was to have an interview than wasn’t like anyone else’s. Out of pure respect for Mista Chuck. He goes deeper than gossip. He has some important things to say and I for one, want to hear them.

Public Enemy are still alive and striving. Their beats, words and soul have never deteriorated the way their influence did due to political and social pressures and misunderstanding. ‘How To Sell Soul To Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul’ is yet another classic and definitive album. Chuck’s faith in the internet also gives you the easy option of downloading the entire back catalogue. Which is a must for a full understanding of the group. Also be sure check out Chuck and Prof Griff’s books. And of course, the fantastic Public Enemy comics, drawn by none other than rapper Illus, with storylines from the band themselves.

By Nino

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