An Interview w/ Chuck D
by Davey D 9/5/02
Part I-REVOLVERLUTION-THE ALBUM
DAVEY D-We here on 94.1 KPFA with Chuck D, You know it’s always hard to interview someone that you know...But it’s gonna be all good! I mean, this is a landmark situation and maybe a crossroads of sorts, with you at this stage and your career and the rest of the P.E.[Public Enemy] Camp, comin’ out with a new album. How do you see it and why at this point in your career did you return to the fold with a new album?
CHUCK D-Right-well, number one, I just think other aspects of music, are revered because they are more organized and Hip-Hop has never been one to organize itself properly. I just look at other genres and they still talk about Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and the Beatles who have been a part of 30 years of rock and they are still a part of dialogue.
In Rap music why can’t it be the same for us? Or why can’t it be the same for me? And I just made it up in my mind as Public Enemy to be able to make a statement with each one of my records, especially after I made up my mind in ’95 that I would do so. I mean “He Got Game” was the first time that a rap group, did an entire sound track ala Isaac Hayes or Curtis Mayfield. Then in 1999 we released the album, There's A Poison Goin'On with the first down loadable album from a mainstream artist.
The statement with this new album [Revolverlution]is how it was put together, partially by it being the first interactive record and as well as just creating a standard for classical old skool artists and showing how they could be relevant to the mainstream. We redesigned the structure of making albums so that you could use your past for you as opposed to your past being used against you. That is what Revolverlution is about. It's about revision and it’s revolutionary and the process of it’s structure and also it’s ingredients.
DAVEY D-Now you mention a couple of things that I want you to build on a little, one of them is you mention the fact that the album is interactive so explain how that’s the case....
CHUCK D- Well, we have all our accapellas done over thanks to the idea that you- Davey D made years ago!(laughing)...And we just said that we go one step further. Our interaction with the Internet and starting with PublicEnemy.com in 98’ which is a world of it’s own. We then established Bringthenoise.com, Rapstation.com and Slamjamz.com which is our online label. We said we could launch the online label just by having the audience being a participant and this shows people that technology’s allowed artists, producers, record labels across the world to actually upgrade their music and they not just be demos and demonstrations, but real records.The fat wires [broadband] on the Internet have allowed for people to actually distribute these real records across in MP3 format which is to be transferred back to a wave format which is the same sound format you hear on an everyday CD. We said we want to be able to use this process to see who’s out there in the world of Hip-Hop and see what they could bring to the table production-wise. So we looked at a whole new way of production.
In the past, the usual way of doing production was, you got words and rhymes, you got together with a guy making beats and you go in the studio together and you make a song. Well, in this new production method,we say alright we got the flow, here is the lyrics, put it out there and have people find their music and see if they could attach it the same way that the remix was founded.
For the Revolverlution project, we put up 4 accapellas on slamjamz.com last August. They were downloaded 11,000 times. 462 mixes came back. Our virtual staff of 50 people on slamjamz had to go and diagnose 462 mixes to come up with 4 winners and that was how history was made.
DAVEY D-Now you had already kind of done some unique stuff before ‘cause I know there’s a cat Bill the Pharmacist who’s out of Santa Cruz.
I know early on, people like you and him were hooking up and doing these virtual recordings with cats from all around the world. Could you speak on that and also just the fact that now with the Internet you’ve been able to bring in people from far off places like Argentina to work on your album. Maybe you could talk a little bit about the world wide impact this has?
CHUCK D-Well, first speaking about the winners... The first winner was chosen by our virtual staff. They were just strictly the winner on what they thought was the most eclectic sound. So the first winner who remixed the Public Enemy #1 accapella was this group called “The Geronimo Punx Redu” which came from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The second winner who remixed one is on The B Side Wins Again, were these guys were college kids from Madison,WI called “Scattershot”. And they actually put together their song in their dorm room.
The third winners came from Austria, his name was “The Funktionist”-he’s a beatmaker from Austria. He remixed the song 'Shut 'Em Down'
The fourth winners came from Long Island, he was named Mike-His stage name is the Moleman. So the virtual staff was the first virtual staff of it’s kind with 50 people who would all take these links of these songs and they would put them on a virtual board in the back of slamjam’s admin area and they would have discussions over the selections on what was hot or top 5 and what was not. So it was the first virtual staff of it’s kind that discovered and evaluated the music. So that is how the different cats from the different parts of the world were chosen.
DAVEY D-But you had been doing that stuff on the internet just recording with people sending tracks and things like that prior to this.
CHUCK D- We tried it on our own with Bill the Pharmacist who’s out there in Santa Cruz. He teaches out there at the School of Media Arts in Emeryville. Bill is actually a producer for this group that we called the first interactive Rap squad called ” The Impossibulls”. There are 8-12 cats from around the country. Bill would send the tracks around and we all rhymed to it and re-uploaded it back to Bill. He would put the song together based on the uploaded versus on his track. The project has since been picked up by C. Doctor Warhammer who operates out of Kitana,PA near Pittsburg. He has pretty much the first cat to have a virtual lab studio. He is the orchestrator of The Impossibulls and also he also one of the head virtual A& R cat in slamjamz. The funny thing about it is half of the cats I never even met and they all worked on this Revolverlution album.
The album cover was put together by a guy who said that he just wanted to be involved in making some of the covers because on slamjamz.com we had released MP3s and we would include a cover with each one. We say that MP3 is the new 45. We believe that a record label is just delivery of music and art and we’re able to do that digital-wise and interactively, deliver music and art and MG [Mike Gorney] came along and he actually took to doing the artwork for the album. The inner sleeve and liner notes is done interactively by a guy named Josh from the UK, who I didn’t meet until last year.
DAVEY D- I know you did a cut w/ Paris. How did that come about?
CHUCK D- DJ Johnny Juice did “Give the People What They Need” & the fact is that Paris went to the Enemy Board on PublicEnemy.com & inquired about being on the album. They passed his email to me and I corresponded w/ him. Paris later did his verse, flipped it over to wire [Internet] and Johnny Juice, laid another version of “Give the People What They Need”. Brothas came together from East to West and got it done through the new technology of the Internet.
In the same form, myself and Flava Flav are gonna do what Paris needs to do on his upcoming album 'Sonic Jihad'. I can’t explain how thankful I am for Paris who is always a warrior and detonating verbal bombs. I am more than happy to be involved w/ whatever he does.
DAVEY D- Lets talk about the overall structure of the album
CHUCK D- I just think that we put together an album the way that people put together albums on the Internet. You got young people out there that assemble their own albums so when we had to put together an album Public Enemy wise we put together a combination different of things. We included some old classics mixed in a new way. We have live joints & some new joints that represents some new flava, that is the most I can do. We have a live version of'Miuzi Weighs A Ton' which we did last time we performed here in the Bay Area. To me that’s invigorating. I made up my mind in 1999 that I was gonna change how I recorded & how I approached the concept of a whole album. How things existed in existed in the 90s,80s,70s, is outta here.
You ask a young cat which cut that they like and they'll say:
“ Well I like track 9.”
They don’t even try to figure out the title. So we have to be able to think, that’s how the climate is out there. So we wanted to put something together that was a combination that some new heads will bop to & some old heads will say;
“ Oh yeah I know that".
That is what is gonna keep my CD in there. It is very hard to keep albums in the CD rotation. It is very hard to get albums played from cut 1 on down to the last cut. So you gotta program an album like a radio show. That’s where a lot of cats are falling short- they are making albums that are really extended singles. There are a lot of albums out there. People want to her compilation albums w/ a lot of different things so we made a compilation of ourselves.
So in this record Revolverlution, we have come full circle, we are revisionists & we are revolutionary & that is what makes this record come full circle b/c we use our past to our advantage regardless of what anybody says. When they hear this Revolverlution album, they will hear song like Fight the Power Live in Switzerland 1992. They are gonna say;
We first did this on It Takes A Nation. There I segwayed those live parts in the middle of It Takes a Nation to show us here in the states that these are people in London who are into Hip Hop. The first impact was people here in the US saying;
“ Well I didn’t know it was like that in London?”
Hell yeah that’s right... In a place like London, they are loud & they are more into Hip Hop then you! You gotta use the psychology of what already is happening to let a person know. We are in charge of our own media so we gotta let people know directly. I just overstand too much that we are too much of a present people in order for me to fall victim of not using my past & not being able to scope out something from the future.
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