FNV: Interview w/ Chuck D pt 2
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Part II-OLD SCHOOL, NEW SCHOOL, BEING INTERNATIONAL AND SOUL
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 60 's 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, it's almost like once you are over 25 or
you're 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. We're 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. We're here , we're in the
present but every aspect of culture and cultural reflection in the
present is being sold to us because it's being concocted in a board
room by a corporation and being put up for sale. So it's no surprise
when you look at the clothes on people's 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 wouldn't it be reflected in the music
situations where we're judged by quantity as opposed to our quality?
People are always asking me "Yo,so where you at?[on the charts] What
are you scanning [Soundscan]? Well, first of all, I make records> I
create records, I don't count records. I don't count hits on web
sites. I'm not an accountant so I don't 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
Now a lot of groups in Hip-Hop in the US have not followed this
example, because the record companies have found out it's convenient
for artist to stay here in the US. The labels don't make money
internationally. The artist sells but it's 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 it's a platform to discuss whatever
we want to discuss worldwide.
Number two, it's 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. I'm not being derogatory but it is just a way to look at it.
I mean this is a business and in many cases artists don't 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
it's only one country. You have to expand your horizons. We will go
to Australia. We will go to Hong Kong. We'll do Canada. We'll do
Europe and Asia and other gigantic territories. We'll 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
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 don't 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 He's the "King of New
York". 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
"Yo, I'm the King of the World". What's sad is the fact that he don't
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 it's the only place.
DAVEY D-It's interesting that you say you do the Soul records. I'm
listening to the 1st two singles, " Give the People What They Need",
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 it's 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. It's 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 today's 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 "How Do You Sell Soul to a
Souless People that Sold Their Soul?" The answer is, you might not
sell it but you can give it away. Like James Brown said "If you ain't
got no Soul, we gotta have soul to loan you some".
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. It's an aspect of the bass, the lost
instrument. Another aspect, just to break it down, is even the
lyrics. Today you can't get caught up into the point of a thesis. I
was criticized by this one journalist, she said; "Well it was just too
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 that's 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 "I got ya", that line is by Joe Tex. From a person that
doesn't 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 don't 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.