Legendary emcee Chuck D of Public Enemy did a Q & A with The Washing Post. With the movie ‘Straight Outta Compton’ grossing $56 million this weekend and earning rave reviews, it seems only right to speak to the front man of Public Enemy. Public Enemy and N.W.A. were around at the same time even though the latter did not last as long, the groups were on different sides to the same coin.
Chuck D spoke on hot topics in way the only he could. He starts off discussing the Black Lives Matter movement:
I went one step one step beyond. No lives matter. We don’t matter. A lot of times, when people hear “black lives matter,” you know, people are so outside of their selves. The United States citizenry always is outside of itself. They think they don’t pertain to having any involvement in the social conditions or in the systematic makeup of reducing us. People don’t feel like… they’re connected to the system, the kind of stuff that keeps people of color and minorities down. That’s like saying to the masses of the United States, if you want to say white America, y’all gotta step up and keep this machine from running so smooth to run over people. I mean look, we can talk about black lives matter. What about the brown people who are getting caught up in the shrapnel of the border between the United States and Mexico? Does that mean that we don’t give a f—? Or that’s not even an issue? So it’s beyond police brutality that might happen in Baltimore or Ferguson. It’s like, what’s out of wack that’s holding the system up when it does wrong? So that’s what that is, in a nutshell. No lives matter if we don’t.
Chuck D on the multimedia age and the effect of a record on people:
Once upon a time, a recording could actually set you free a little bit. But we’re in a multimedia participation age. It’s visual audio as opposed to audio-visual. It kind of takes the gamut. Can a record actually sway many people organically? …We had the release of ”Straight Outta Compton’ last night. It’s motion picture. It’s a film. It’s a movie. People are more apt to lean toward the film as a reality or a TV show as a reality even before the record. N.W.A is an actual group of recording artists, but that was in the ’90s and the late ’80s. Now, N.W.A’s story had to convey itself in a film in order to get that impact of who they are and what they did.
If you look around at what we are as musicians doing concerts, conveying our message across audio files and some visual aspects, for the United States of America, who has built robots over the last 20 years, it might not be the top-rated format. More people responded to the TV show ‘Empire” [laughs] than anything out of the music business. And people sit down and sit they a– in front of a TV show and take what’s delivered. And if they feel it’s relevant to what they already feel and know, then they’re going to stay stuck to the tube. We addressed that years ago.
A very interesting take on the current generation and how they tend to learn. He also goes on to speak about modern-day hip hop and lack of groups and the what it has done to black music.
The power of black music and the power of hip-hop, especially in the beginning, was groups and collective efforts, but it’s been reduced to one person. You wonder if this is a lawyer’s doing or corporate doing because they didn’t want all these n—-s in the same room screaming at ’em? It’s easier to neutralize one person than a group of them coming from all angles.
That’s been the coup d’etat of the corporate record industry over rap music and hip-hop. We name a whole bunch of individuals today — whether it’s Kanye West or Jay Z. We individualized an art form that came in as a collective. That’s been the biggest tragedy. So when it comes down to a group like Public Enemy, they just don’t know how to process it. When we look at processing ourselves, we’re looking at the Rolling Stones. We’re looking at the Beatles, or even black collectives — they don’t understand, like the O’Jays and the Isley Brothers. They’ve individualized black music. That’s been the biggest tragedy of black music
The final really big talking point was Bill Cosby. Chuck D caught some heat when he went on Twitter and people thought he was defending Cosby, he did his best to clear up in the tweets that he was referring to his legacy and does that again.
I was basically just saying, in the short spaces that I had, that not only is it character assassination on Bill Cosby’s legacy, I just thought it was character association. They accused me of character association. So, I was just saying you’re going to wipe away everything he did in the past, and if it’s up in the present, you’re just going to take it away with one big swoop? Well, welcome to what they do to black history anyway. And it turned into this whole thing of thinking I’m defending the people that he so-called raped. Like, nah, either you can’t read exactly what I wrote or either I’m not good at writing exactly what you want to read on Twitter.
It is a very real and great interview to get his perspective on these issues. The current climate for black culture is a very interesting one as narratives tend to be shifting and people are more conscious to their surroundings and their portrayals in media. There are few people that warrant attention at almost all times, Chuck D is one of those people, disagree or agree hip hop is always better to have him as an ambassador for the culture.
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