Hey Gen Y, what do we believe is our greatest challenge in life? WAITING. We want the best job, the best clothes, the best-looking French Bulldog, and we want it now! Well, too bad. Sometimes we need to suppress that tiny anxiety-driven tantrum and wait. But believe me, the chance to interview the hugely iconic political hip hop artist, Chuck D, is worth waiting for and my new challenge was to gain as much information as possible in 15 short minutes. Challenge accepted.
Chuck D became involved with music during college in 1979, aged 19. He was a mobile DJ at the time, something that was seen as innovative. Other than being stereotypically cool, Chuck D was happy to, “…brag about it cos it was different. We felt like tough guys on our own for being intellectuals.” After releasing a few independent recordings, Chuck D was “a music professional by age 26” and Public Enemy began supporting the likes of the Beastie Boys. In 1987 they released their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show to critical acclaim.
For an artist considered a hip hop pioneer with a history and passion for political activism, notable intelligence and honesty, you can imagine Chuck D would despise modern artists who pride themselves over money, bling and girls. However, he confidently points out that, “Music is supposed to be a fantasy and means many things to many. Chuck Berry helped write songs about girls and cars, so it’s not new. But diversion is important. Make people in suits and ties happy and figure yourself out, know who you are!”
A perfect example is Odd Future. Chuck D expressed admiration for Odd Future with their daring shows, while creatively separating themselves from their peers, which Chuck D believes is very important.
Another distinct focus during our conversation was the importance of adaptation. Some 25 years after their debut, Chuck D and Public Enemy are still recording amidst a “blizzard of obligations”. 2012 brings two Public Enemy albums released four months apart. Chuck D feels that, “As a creator, I didn’t want people to go through music in one flash like they do today. We wanted to make an event in releasing the album – what’s in the record, and we always try to do something different. Spreading listening between months, a four-month window between (each release) with connecting songs, will intrigue listeners. Listening and absorbing of music is increasing. The recording world has changed and we adapted.”
Chuck D’s intelligence and social proactivity is undeniable and combined with his ability to easily adapt with a more digital-focused music industry, he emphasised, “The studio is in you. You can co-ordinate people with iPhones, texts, emails. You’re not in a gigantic studio under the record companies anymore. It’s a wonderful time for music and I don’t think people have taken that depth into technology. It’s not hurting music.”
With the albums still to be recorded, mixed, mastered and released, Chuck D finds juggling commitments to be tough, “Today I am in Atlanta and then I spend a lot of time in my other home, New York. Then interviews; I’ve had 2.5 hours of interviews today and I’m supposed to have my head ready for May. Making it all fit in is a bit to ask.”
The month of May sees Public Enemy bringing their rebel and rhyme to headline the Groovin the Moo Festival. Their musical style and provocative approach to political and social concerns have made them immortal, gaining millions of fans during their career. Old, new and partial fans are strongly encouraged to see Public Enemy live to celebrate their triumphant 25 years of phenomenal hip hop.
The wait is over! So don’t delay and bum rush the shows below, yo!
GROOVIN THE MOO – LINEUP 2012
Sat 5 May – Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo
Sun 6 May – Murray Sports Complex, Townsville
Sat 12 May – Maitland Showground, Maitland
Sun 13 May – The Meadows, Canberra
Sat 19 May – Hay Park, Bunbury
Public Enemy Australian Tour 2012
Thu 10 May
Fri 11 May
Tue 15 May
The Palace Theatre