An Interview w/ Chuck D pt 2
by Davey D 9/5/02
Chuck D on Old School, New School & Being Soulful
DAVEY D-You had also mentioned something which goes to a deeper issue that we have often discussed. The fact is that in other genres of music we celebrate the past. For example, this year we just celebrated Paul McCartney going on tour..We celebrated the Rolling Stones tour and they're in their 60ís We celebrated Tito Puente just before his death. We celebrate and honor a lot of people who have contributed to their respected genres of music and who are idolized all around the world. But when it comes to Hip-Hop, in particular Hip-Hop here in the US, itís almost like once you are over 25 or youíre on your 3rd album, your considered Old Skool. Where is this coming from? Is it from the streets? It is from the industry? Or is this just the way the American culture is right now?
CHUCK D- It is the way that American culture is... because Hip-Hop at its root is the reflection of a lost people still trying to find themselves. So Black people who at the root are still judge by our quantity as opposed to our quality. Weíre just numbers and we got people that are just judging us on numbers.
For example, the past and the future are blurry and we have people who want us to be in the present... but the present is being sold back to us. That is what is happening right now. Weíre here , weíre in the present but every aspect of culture and cultural reflection in the present is being sold to us because itís being concocted in a board room by a corporation and being put up for sale. So itís no surprise when you look at the clothes on peopleís backs,the language we speak or even down to the reflecting situations on radio and TV. They have now become dictating forces for sole purpose getting our dollars.
Today its all about being told to forget the past and forget the future and make us think the present is something brand new out the box and the never even been there before. This is reflected in our everyday existence, so why wouldnít it be reflected in the music situations where we're judged by quantity as opposed to our quality?
People are always asking me ďYo,so where you at?[on the charts] What are you scanning [Soundscan]? Well, first of all, I make records> I create records, I donít count records. I donít count hits on web sites. Iím not an accountant so I donít count. This has been a problem spread throughout is that music business has turned the business of music but when you talk about Black people w/ in the business of music basically it is music employment , people trying to hold on for jobs.
DAVEY D-Is it feasible to expect Public Enemy, especially w/ the years of wisdom and the vast knowledge that you guys have, to reach the cats who are now running around listening to artists like Nelly,Jermaine Dupri and Juvenile and what they spit is all he or she knows?
CHUCK D- The only thing that saves Public Enemy is from the beginning we expanded our marketplace. When Public Enemy released a record, we had to think 7 continents. We were older and so when we traveled across to Europe in 1987 w/ LL Cool J it was two different mentalities. LL wanted to stay home and we wanted to go to as many places as our grown selves would figure. These areas across the world was where we were able to plant seeds. Over the years we have been able to go to all parts of the world to pick fruits not as a greedy type of thing, but to set a standard for Hip-Hop so other groups could follow.
Now a lot of groups in Hip-Hop in the US have not followed this example, because the record companies have found out itís convenient for artist to stay here in the US. The labels donít make money internationally. The artist sells but itís a hard dollar to make b/c you have to go to the areas, really get into the art and really perform, but this is something that worked for Public Enemy. Therefore when we put out a record itís a platform to discuss whatever we want to discuss worldwide.
Number two, itís our passport to go to the world. So when we can talk about releasing a record ,we figure that we take 4 months out of the year and we have a different arrangement on what we have to do as far as to following through on all the records. So therefore in December we are looking at Cuba then Surinam, then Brazil and South Africa and closing it out in Australia. This would not necessarily be Nelly's plan. Iím not being derogatory but it is just a way to look at it.
I mean this is a business and in many cases artists donít realize that until they have turned their business over to somebody who just treats all this like a job. This is something that is serious and we as Public Enemy are spread out in 8 different parts of the US, so we have to really be able to scour the world. This is something that made Public Enemy . If you limit your thinking, you're gonna have limited results and a situation that might be controlled by corporations b/c itís only one country. You have to expand your horizons. We will go to Australia. We will go to Hong Kong. Weíll do Canada. Weíll do Europe and Asia and other gigantic territories. Weíll go to Africa and do the US. We can only tour the US for 4 weeks then we have to move on. Pirates, we're world pirates.
DAVEY D-Talk about the way people internationally view what you do and what we do over here. I recently made my first trip out of the country to Spain and it was real eye opening. The first thing that really struck me, was two things- one, how deep people get into the art....I mean they really study what comes out of here in the US and they usually know more than the people that create the art half the time.
The second thing is that, the amount of people who are up on politics. I mean I was looking at newspapers and trying to understand the TV and they were just covering stuff that we donít even talk about over here in the states. Whether it is about then AIDS situation on down to what our own US president is doing. They were talking about stuff that has not even broken out over here. It was a real deep for me being the first time out of the country, but how do you see it after all these years of traveling around the world? How has that impacted the type of approach you have towards music?
CHUCK D-One quickly realizes that America has an arrogance and has had an arrogance for the last 100 years. That has permeated all the way down so that Hip-Hop artists talking about Heís the ďKing of New YorkĒ. This arrogance does not allow the US to see itself as a country alongside different countries. It looks at itself as a country above the rest of the world. Whereas when you went to Spain, you find that they have to think about the fact that they that we have to co-exist with other countries. To the East there is Italy or to the West there is Portugal. In an evironnment like that, one has to be able to discuss the world politic or be able to fit in.
The US is not about fitting in it is about dominating & thinking your cut above. This attitude is being permeated to a Black kid that is living in a Black area thinking he's gonna put it in a rap song like ďYo, Iím the King of the WorldĒ. What's sad is the fact that he donít even know what the World is. It's a mentality that America would like Americans to believe so they can still control them. It goes down to your average rap song saying more fantasy then reality.
The rest of the world looks to Black people in the US. For a long period of time Black culture has transcended the world society because Black culture has made a statement against the world. We have been shipping our legacy since Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington & the Billie Holidays and now all the way up to where we are today. The problem now is when corporations have the final say-so over what should be said and how it should be said. That is a danger zone because nobody is gonna wanna say anything different, they're gonna wanna say the same thing b/c/ it works just to maintain their contract.
When you try to make the perfect record & perfect promoting ways of putting a record to the forefront then a lot of people are gonna make similar moves. Those moves might not relate to different parts of the world but they still gonna look at the culture coming out of the US as the hot culture. The problem is those artist will never visit those lands because they are trained to stay in US w/ an American mentality like itís the only place.
DAVEY D-Itís interesting that you say you do the Soul records. Iím listening to the 1st two singles, ď Give the People What They NeedĒ, now if I close my eyes, I have to ask myself, is this Joe Tex or James Brown?
CHUCK D-(Laughing)A lot of times people say well what kind of records do you like to make? I like to make Soul records and if I happen to rap soul records then that is what itís about. I think in Soul, you are taking chances. Half of a soul record is a accident and the other half is the actual execution. Itís based upon feelings.
DAVEY D-You really kind of came w/ that type of flava-literally! James Brown could have been on the record and we would not have known. What was that about? And contrast that w/ the lyrics that you were putting in that song where you're talking about H Rap Brown and Mumia. First of all do you think that todayís audience will adjust to this James Brown approach & will they be able to relate to the lyrical topics of Mumia & H. Rap Brown?
CHUCK D-One statement which is off the top and the title of the next album which is part of the triolgy is ďHow Do You Sell Soul to a Souless People that Sold Their Soul?Ē The answer is, you might not sell it but you can give it away. Like James Brown said ďIf you ainít got no Soul, we gotta have soul to loan you someĒ.
CHUCK D- I think in the execution of people making the perfect record & looking for the perfect beat & the beat being the predominate act of Black music for the last 10 years, I think Soul is the sacrifice. Soul is the aspect of the piece. Itís an aspect of the bass, the lost instrument. Another aspect, just to break it down, is even the lyrics. Today you canít get caught up into the point of a thesis. I was criticized by this one journalist, she said;
ďWell it was just too much sloganeering.Ē
I have been doing sloganering since day one because I am not writing a thesis I am creating a song so in that aspect I have to be able to come and hit on topics and points that sound good enough over a beat and have enough soul in it to spark interest. I know of no other way unless I am doing a lecture and thatís something else.
I look at cats like Mystical... When people say Mystical sounds like James Brown, I say 'No-Mystical sounds like Joe Tex. When you hear him say ďI got yaĒ, that line is by Joe Tex. From a person that doesnít know the difference between James Brown and Joe Tex, of course they are gonna say James Brown. I am able to say that b/c there are some aspects there that I can use.
Also I gotta give kudos to DJ Johnny Juice who was one of the key executioners who helped put out 'Bumrush the Show' and 'It Takes a Nation'. With him coming back to the fold has been tremendous! He provided us with a musical backing that is Afro-Cubanish. So if you are actually bringing something musical wise that is Afro-Cubanish w/ the rhythm, then you can recognize that aspect of soul here in the US that has basically weened itself away from soul. I know one thing, some of these songs will work in Cuba!
DAVEY D- (Laughing)
CHUCK D-Like I said, 'how do you sell Soul to a Souless People That Sold Their Soul'? You donít sell soul, you are gonna have to give it away. That is how interactivity is... Before you give people what they want, ya gotta give people what they need. Ya gotta bring people back to soul.
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