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-Public Enemy

Archived Headlines
(from February 1999)

2.27.99 3:01 am est R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Chuck D Join Cuban Cultural Exchange Jaunt, Indigo Girls, Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood plan to write songs with Havana artists. 
(from SonicNet web site)
An all-star group of musicians made up of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Public Enemy's Chuck D and the Indigo Girls will fly south to Havana next month to spend a week working on music with local artists.

An initial four-day period of group songwriting will build toward a climactic concert at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana on March 28, during which the artists will perform the best of their new creations.

"I'm going as a songwriter, and I know I'm not gonna be as good a musician as those guys. They're all amazing performers," guitarist Buck said. "But I'll learn some things, and I think it will be fun. And I get to go to Cuba legally. I've got a government permit. I'll fly right from L.A." 

It's an interesting dynamic: songwriters from different cultures working on new songs and then performing their creations within the span of a week. But veteran songwriter Alan Roy Scott, organizer of the upcoming event in Cuba, said he's seen it happen four times before.

"It's amazing how these things come together," Scott said. "Part of this is what I call the 'X-factor.' One thing I can't show anybody is this magic that just happens."

If all goes according to plan, the magic will happen again March 21-29. Also slated for the trip -- the latest edition of a cultural exchange project called Music Bridges Around the World -- are singer/songwriter Me'Shell Ndegeocello, former Police bandmates Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, country star Kris Kristofferson and Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood.

Buck, in Los Angeles recently to film a scene for the television show "Party of Five" with the other members of R.E.M. -- whose most recent album, Up, includes the song "Lotus" (RealAudio excerpt) -- said he is excited about the opportunity to work and create in Cuba.

"It's pretty great -- a really amazing group of people," he said. "It's like Chuck D, Burt Bacharach, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, the Indigo Girls, Lisa Loeb -- all these kind of interesting people."

Scott said that from what he's learned, Cuban artists, rather than sitting in a room writing with one or two other people -- as Scott did for Motown back in the 1980s -- prefer large-scale musical jams to shape their compositions. Scott, then, is planning to bring as many as 40 artists with him to Cuba to keep his options as wide as possible.

Scott arrived at the idea for a music-based cultural exchange program in 1988, after years of traveling to other countries to participate in week-long songwriting competitions -- ones where he would write songs and a house band would help perform them. While he likened those events to an "international 'Star Search' " -- and met artists who now are close friends -- he also felt they were amateurish and could be improved upon.

One night, over a couple of beers with friends, he said he arrived at the idea of working with professional musicians in a way that could have a cultural impact on the countries involved and build camaraderie between musicians. With the help of a friend based in Finland who had contacts in the nearby Soviet Union, he organized the first Music Bridges show.

In the years since, his Music Bridges Around the World project has also visited Romania, Indonesia and Ireland.

The years have shown that anything is possible, Scott said. As an example, he said the artists who participated in the Ireland exercise produced 52 songs in 4 days and performed 25 songs, mostly at a length between three and five minutes.

Now, Scott doesn't know what to expect -- only that Cuba is a relevant place to be at the moment, as one of two major Communist countries still in existence. It also, he said, is known internationally for a rich musical tradition.

"There's a creative excitement there. I thought it would be a cool place to go," Scott said.

A house band will be used to perform a majority of the new songs, Scott said. The artists will spend four days writing and one day rehearsing before the concert.

"This is a virgin run. That's the cool thing," Scott said. 

2.26.99 3:02 am est Public Enemy's Net Album Due Soon, Chuck D Says, Rapper also announces plans to start Internet label. 
NEW YORK -- Public Enemy's next album, There's a Poison Goin' On, will be available for free on the rap group's official website "in maybe 40 or 50 days," frontman Chuck D said Tuesday.

Chuck D, who also revealed plans to launch an Internet-based record label, gave more details about the album, which he said earlier would be offered for free downloading for four to eight weeks.

He said the album is "85 percent finished" and its first single will be "Do You Wanna Go Our Way."

"It's gonna be out there for a limited time totally free and then people can do what they wanna do," Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour) said. "Everybody's gonna be waiting to get physical copies of the CD. It's a good situation to be in."

Chuck D's manager, Walter Leaphart, said Tuesday that Public Enemy has not finalized the logistics of releasing the album online. "There's a bunch of stuff on the table, and I'm researching all of it," he said.

The rapper, who has been a vocal proponent of the near-CD-quality MP3 format despite the record industry's nervousness about MP3s, has yet to reveal the format in which the album will be posted. In December, Public Enemy posted several songs from an unreleased remix album, Bring the Noise 2000, in MP3 format at their site (, but they were later removed -- at the demand of Def Jam Records, according to the rapper.

Public Enemy are no longer with Def Jam, which has declined to comment on the issue.

The offering of the album online is part of Public Enemy's overall push toward digital distribution of its music.

In January, the group posted another MP3 song, "Swindler's Lust" (RealAudio excerpt), which remains available for downloading.

Now, Chuck D said Tuesday, he is planning on creating an Internet label with a group of business partners whom he declined to name.

"Matter of fact, I'm about to do three deals," he said. "Over the last four or five months it's been a situation of trying to figure out where and what."

He said he didn't want to give details on any of the deals until they were finalized, which he said could happen as early as next week.

Chuck D spoke as he was leaving Tribeca Rooftop, a Manhattan conference hall where he had just taken part in Silicon Alley '99, an Internet industry conference. He discussed his dispute with Def Jam over the MP3 files at length during a round-table discussion on the music industry's future.

The rapper, who wore a blue hooded sweatshirt, black jeans and Timberland boots, garnered frequent laughter and applause from the conference's button-down crowd with sharp comments on the Internet-era music industry.

"If I can stream or even download to millions of people, who needs radio?" asked Chuck D, who with Public Enemy recently launched an Internet radio site ( "In fact, I might be the first artist [who] sues a radio station for playing my s---."

Michael Robertson, CEO of Inc., which runs a popular MP3 clearinghouse, said Public Enemy's plan to give away new music makes sense.

"The value for an artist is in building an ongoing relationship with consumers," Robert said. "The real value for Chuck is that he'll know who his fans are," he said.

After the panel discussion ended, Chuck D patiently stood and talked to dozens of attendees, smiling as he signed autographs and exchanged business cards.

As he left, the baritone-voiced rapper signed up for a contest to win a PalmPilot. "I've got kids," he explained.

2.25.99 MP3 Panelists Claim Music Revolution Already Underway
(from Silicon Ally Daily) by Mark Rinzel 
MP3, the Internet technology that allows near-CD quality music downloads sparked the most passionate and well-attended panel at Silicon Alley 99, "Convergence: The Future of Media." The main issue for panelists was not whether or not MP3 will change the music business, but how quickly it will happen. Will the Internet break a major act in the next year while major labels continue to downsize? 

Dropping knowledge like only he can, hip-hop veteran Chuck D of Public Enemy said the days of major label monopolies are numbered. 

"Basically, the record companies have been pimping their technology on all of us for years," he said. "Well, this is a technology they can't pimp." 

Other panelists included Andrew Rasiej, the former proprietor of Irving Plaza and organizer of the Intel Music Festival,'s CEO Michael Robertson, and Jonathan Taplin, the founder of video-on-demand company Intertainer. 

With a painstaking account of the logistics involved in the production and distribution of CDs, Rasiej said MP3 would streamline the process for artists. The 'revolution' won't happen overnight though, and it will probably take about 15 years for the CD to become anything close to irrelevant. recently had its ad pulled from Grammy magazine, which is run by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, due to its "controversial nature." Robertson said makes it easier for smaller acts to gain exposure. 

Taplin believes the advent of faster speed connections, especially on college campuses, will accelerate the penetration of MP3. But like all technologies, MP3 raises serious concerns in addition to providing its benefits. 

"I'm concerned about a whole generation of kids growing up thinking that music is free," said Taplin. "How is the artist going to pay for the production of his CD?" 

The problem MP3 presents regarding piracy is simple. Anyone who downloads a song can then distribute it freely to others. Stories in popular magazines like Time have described the prototypical college student bandit, who houses a mammoth database of illegal music files and plays them for his fraternity. Implied in this scenario is that the artists are being cheated. 

But for artists, the payoff of an almost unlimited distribution channel may outweigh the risks of widespread piracy. In fact, the more music that's out there the better, said Chuck D. 

"If I can give away 20 million pieces of my music, I know some shit's coming back," he said. 

Perhaps downplaying the importance of conventional record sale revenues, Robertson said that most artists do not make that much money selling CDs. "The value for the artists is in building an ongoing relationship with the customer," he said. 

Taplin said this was "simply naïve," claiming that Alanis Morissette made $10 million from her last album's sales. To this, Rasiej countered that MP3 does not have to create superstars, but it will certainly bring more players into the mix. 

"I think every artist wants to make a living doing what they do," he said. "Do they all have to be multi-millionaires to do so?" 

The consensus from most of the panelists was that the major labels and mega-stars are permanent fixtures in the music world. Likening the music industry to professional basketball, Chuck D said there will always be "an NBA." 

"I call it the A, B and C equation," he explained. "Now we're just going to have another minor league of players." 

Most panelists felt that the music industry's attempts to block MP3 are futile, but also predictable. Rasiej pointed out that in the early 1980s, the movie studios fought videotapes much the same way labels are fighting MP3. Video sales now account for 60 percent of their revenues, he claimed, implying the inevitable adoption of MP3 by the industry in the future. 

In the short term, the first practice artists will challenge is the amount of control they are willing to hand over to their labels, predicted Chuck D. He said there will likely be a fragmentation of the industry, with 1 million artists and 500,000 labels. As the necessity of the labels diminishes, artists will be in a position to share profits on a more even scale. 

"It's like, I brought you the fruit. You sold the fruit. It's 50/50 and shit!" he said. 

What currently happens, according to Chuck D, is artists must hand over all their rights to the label, and labels own the distribution channels for their work. MP3 will give musicians more leverage in negotiating with large labels since it will be possible to bypass them somewhat on the distribution side. 

"Artists blind-sidedly go past that line," he said. "The first line of every contract gives the labels control over 'territory, the world and the universe.' The universe? What the fuck does that mean?" 

Rasiej said the industry currently operates on a scarcity model, which no longer applies. 

"The music business works for A&R [artists and repertoire] people and agents," he said. "It's a scarcity model that convinces artists that everyone is out there trying to take their stuff. That model is dead." 

2.24.99 Silicon Alley Event Uses Music As Benchmark for Convergence 
(from Webnoize web site)
Life after the digital music revolution was the central theme of a panel discussion entitled "Convergence: The Future of Media," yesterday at the Silicon Alley '99 conference in New York City. 

Though offering differing approaches and strategies, all four panelists -- rapper Chuck D ( Public Enemy), CEO Michael Robertson, Intertainer Founder Jonathan Taplin, and former Irving Plaza owner and founder of the annual New York Music Festival Andrew Rasiej -- acknowledged that the time has come for the emerging digital music industry to get down to business and conceive of real revenue models to propel itself forward. 

Along those lines, panel moderator and Silicon Alley Reporter Publisher Jason McCabe Calacanis put Robertson on the spot about what's business model actually is, considering the company's recent $11 million venture financing from Sequoia Capital and idealab! [see 1.15.99 With $11M Investment, To Expand Marketing, Download Strategies]. 

Dropping "to go public" as an ice breaker, Robertson indicated's main business will be serving artists, meeting their needs by providing online marketing, emerging technology support and essentially becoming a partner in advancing their music. While Robertson didn't openly describe as a label, he said the company is signing ten bands per day and is using the Internet and online demand as a "funnel" to determine content rights. 

Like Robertson, Chuck D railed against the current music industry structure, particularly the "three Rs:" record companies, retail and radio. 

"The three Rs have to get honest with the public," said Chuck D. "The industry has gotten away with bloody murder...but this is technology they can't pimp." 

The rapper said he would rather give his music away to fans than pay for thousands of promotional CDs (as is typical music industry convention) to be shipped to people like "a disc jockey in Idaho who will never play my music." 

"If I can stream or download over the 'net, fuck radio. I'm not gonna give a fuckin' dime to radio," he said, adding, "I might be the first artist that sues a radio station for playing my song." 

Chuck D. acknowledged that artists need to look hard at business choices. The rapper predicted that the music industry would splinter, and thousands of small labels and millions of artists would emerge. "There'll be a lot of musicians who'll have to figure out other ways to make money." 

Saying the majors "are never going away -- they're like the NBA," Chuck D. likened himself to basketball star Scottie Pippen, playing for the Rockets one day, the Sonics the next. By experimenting with creative ways to promote his music -- such as cutting three-month deals with physical retailers -- the rapper joked, "We're gonna do all kinds of crazy shit. I'm gonna be tackling players in my own backfield." 

Turning serious, he added, "If we can make more artist contracts closer to a joint venture, I think it will be a healthier environment for artists and consumers." 

Rasiej echoed Chuck D.'s sentiments to form long-term relationships with his fans. "Artists and the ultra fans -- they're going to change the way the music industry operates in 10 to 15 years." 

Taplin said both digital downloading and subscribing to a database to have music streamed to consumers were efficient solutions for future music distribution. But Taplin also said the record companies were preoccupied with finding a Holy Grail solution. "They're looking for pure secure download technology. That's bullshit." 

Taplin said he worried that the MP3 phenomenon encouraged the perception that music is free. He also questioned artists' abilities to make money through other means than selling music. "Touring is low margin; it's not going to support the artist," he said. "Somehow artists have got to make money to be able to record and promote albums." 

"Every artist wants to make a living from their music," Rasiej countered. "But do artists have to sell million of records to make a living?" 

Rasiej argued that the industry's continuous harping on the issue of music being left unprotected is a "psychological quirk." 

"The scarcity model doesn't work in the digital age; we need to move on." Rasiej pointed to the film and cable industries as examples of directions for music, saying that the film industry was unsupportive of video at first. Ultimately, nichification and timeliness will become increasingly important, he said. 

"Music is going to become a disposable commodity and that's not so bad. What becomes valuable? What's happening now, today, live?"

Rasiej said that technology needs to become invisible and that the industry should stop approaching digital music with a CD format mentality: "Live music will become much more important...content like that can be inexpensively created with today's technology." Rasiej predicted that the music industry would loose 10-15% of its business to alternative models. 

Robertson agreed with the predictions that major labels would still be around in five years because of their money and marketing capabilities, but added that independents will "take it in the shorts," because they don't have the marketing clout and consumer presence to carry themselves forward. 

2.24.99 9:10 am pst Chuck D: MP3 Won't Kill Labels
(from Wired web site) by David Kushner
NEW YORK -- MP3 is a formidable weapon, but it's not necessarily the silver bullet that will kill the record labels once and for all. That was the consensus here Tuesday among a group of digital music entrepreneurs and activists. 
"The majors are never going to go away, they're like the NBA," said outspoken rap artist and MP3 activist Chuck D. However, he added, MP3 could provide something like an alternative league. 

The occasion was a panel discussion, "Convergence: The Future of Media," held at the Silicon Alley 99 conference. 

MP3 advocates have held that musicians are better off maintaining control of their music, and getting it directly to listeners who want to buy it. Ostensibly, artists who sell their music over the Web, rather than through a traditional label, would make more money because they wouldn't have to feed a record company's mammoth marketing budget. 

But in return for the distribution power of MP3, an artist might potentially lose a label's promotional power, as well as lucrative, and often necessary, recording advances. 

"How is an artist supposed to make money to pay for a record?" Asked Jonathan Taplin, founder of Intertainer, an on-demand video provider based in Los Angeles. 

Taplin, a former tour manager for Bob Dylan, questioned whether an artist could "break" on the Net without adequate financial and marketing support. 

No matter how sophisticated MP3 becomes, "artists will always need money to record and promote themselves," he said. "I'm worried about a generation of kids who think music gets created for nothing, which it doesn't." 

Another potential kink in MP3's firepower is the limited ubiquity of the wares, said Andrew Raseij, ex-owner of Irving Plaza, one of the first high-tech music clubs in New York City. 

"The guy who takes his lunch to work every day is not digitally downloading music," Raseij told the standing-room only crowd. So far, no MP3 artist has been an overnight success, though several bands are hopeful. 

And despite the recording industry's recent moves toward digital distribution, its resistance is still palpable, said Michael Robertson, founder of Robertson said that just last week, Grammy magazine notified him that an ad he had purchased for his company would not run because MP3 "was too controversial." 

The panelists also think the industry is off-base on its own digital music format propositions. 

"These [record] companies have to get on board," said Taplin. "They're focusing on secure downloads, but that's all bullshit. Anyone can hack anything." 

For established artists, a more daunting stumbling block on the road to digital distribution is the issue of electronic rights, Chuck D said. Like many young musicians, he signed away crucial rights earlier in his career. This enabled Polygram to force him to remove an unreleased Public Enemy album that he had posted in frustration after the record company had repeatedly delayed distributing it. 

"If we can make more artist contracts closer to joint ventures, I think it'll be healthier environment [for MP3]," he said. 

Of course, not all Net-based bands have already sold millions of records -- as Public Enemy has. What good, then, is MP3 without the promotional power of, say, a Sony? 

Robertson contended that artists could in fact break in online, and further asserted that even a big star like Alanis Morissette doesn't make much money directly from her albums. 

Taplin called this pronouncement "naive." 

In other words, MP3 is still essentially a format, not a record label. For it to truly live up to its potential, Raseij suggested, its advocates need to address a pressing and inevitable question: "What is the business model?" 

While matters such as these get resolved, Chuck D, for one, plans to use MP3 to continue to fight the power and, at the very least, stir things up. "We threw a grenade back at the industry," he said with a smile, "and we got the pin in our hands."

2.24.99 10:00 est Chuck D To Flaunt Support Of Net Music Distribution At Expo 
(from MTV web site)
Expect Public Enemy's Chuck D to embrace new forms of music distribution even more when he turns up at next month's New York Music and Internet Expo to deliver the event's keynote address.

"As we head into the 21st century, it'll be difficult to stop a cultural revolution that bridges people together," the PE frontman said in a written statement the trumpets his appearance at the Expo, and also reflects his avid support of Internet music distribution. "Discussing differences through artistic communication and sharing interests in a common bond -- rap music and hip-hop have achieved that in 20 years. On the wild, wild Web ... watch, feel and listen. It's only just begun."

Last year, Chuck attempted to distribute a Public Enemy remix album called "Bring The Noise 2000" on the group's website (at but was ordered to remove it by Universal/Polygram, the parent company of his record label, Def Jam. Chuck's answer to the label's action was to post a song called "Swindler's Lust" on the PE site. The song attacked the music industry and its legal efforts to curb web distribution of new music. Since then Public Enemy has split from Def Jam and plans to distribute its next album online (see "Public Enemy Leaves Def Jam, Will Distribute Next Album Online").

MusicMatch and will be sponsoring the first-ever New York Music and Internet Expo.

2.24.99 3:01 am est Chuck D To Address Conference
(from SonicNet web site)
Public Enemy leader and MP3 activist Chuck D will deliver the keynote address at the 1999 New York Music and Internet Expo, which takes place March 6-7. "As we head into the 21st century, it'll be difficult to stop a cultural revolution that bridges people together," the rapper said in a statement addressing digital delivery of music. In a post Sunday to the official P.E. website (, Chuck D said he is almost finished with the band's next album, There's a Poison Goin' On, which he has said he plans to release online as a downloadable collection.

2.18.99 7:47am Chuck D & Vin Rock Speak Out About the Internet!
(from Davey D's web site) by Davey D 
Chuck D and Vinnie of Naughty By Nature took some time out the other day to drop some science on my Sunday morning talk show called Street Knowledge on 106 KMEL here in San Francisco. The topic focused on the Internet and New Technology'. Here Chuck gave listeners a lot to think about. He explained how it was essential for Black folks to position themselves so they cut out any sort of middleman who makes us dependent on him for information and the ability for us to present and define our music. He wanted those entering into the music game to completely redefine their relationship with record companies, retail and radio. As far as Chuck is concerned these institutions are not doing right by us and need to bypassed.

'There is absolutely no excuse for an artist to come along and pay all this money for airplay...All this payola has got to stop', Chuck emphatically noted. He then went on to break it down how record labels pay on average 60 thousand dollars to commercial radio to insure airplay. He spoke in great detail about the soured relationship between him and his former label Def Jam Records. He spoke about how he attempted to do audits to track down the type of money that his label was spending with commercial stations to push his own group. It got deep as Chuck promised to start dropping more names and culprits who were bent on spending and collecting illegal money for airplay. He even spoke on the role the Prison Industry was playing in new technology. He pointed out that many Prison companies are garnering contracts and having inmates make computers. 'The very technology that some people have run away will be forced on them and mastered while doing time in these new slave camps', Chuck said.

Chuck D also noted that he is committed to pushing his website[ ] and the internet first when it comes to bringing attention to Public Enemy activities. 'I'm at the point now where I am targetting certain radio stations and completely boycotting them.. In fact I will sue them if they start playing any of my new material without permission', Chuck explained. He concluded by talking about the Internet radio stations he had set up and how folks can adequately make money on line []. He also gave praise to internet savvy groups from the Bay Area like The Heiroglyphics and Mystik Journeymen. He encouraged folks to follow the example set by these acts who not only sell albums on line, but also put together tours which take them literally all around the world. 

Vinnie of Naughty By Nature spoke about the importance of young people not falling prey to the stereotypes about computers being a tool for 'lonely people'. 'The internet allows me direct access to my fans', Vinnie passionately explained []. He spoke on the fact that such items like beepers and cell phones were once unheard of in 'the hood' and now they're common place. Computers should take on that type of importance. Vinnie also spoke on the important role artists should be playing in terms of setting examples for young people to start embracing the new technology. He spoke about a program he and his fellow NBN members had started in their native East Orange, New Jersey to donate computers to the classroom. He explained that they had already met with the superindentendent of the East Orange school district to push this new program.

Both Chuck and Vinnie noted that it will be a while before the Internet completely replaces traditional means of distributing music, but it offers a great alternative for artists and fans alike. 'Soon we'll have a million artists and 500 thousand record companies on line' Chuck proclaimed. Both he and Vinnie noted that if Black folks can spend 200 and 300 hundred dollars on a pair of sneakers or gold fronts then they can and should spend some money on getting a computer and learning how to use it. That sounds like some good advice when one considers that over half the American homes are wired for internet access. Unfortunately far vtoo many African Americans are lagging behind. 'People have better get involved with this whole internet thing before it's starts getting regulated and you get pushed out', Vinnie warned. 

2.15.99 Big Corporations Set New Standard
(from NME website)
The big five record companies - BMG, EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal - have teamed up with mega-corporation IBM to pioneer a new industry standard that will stop the MP3 revolution and allow them to keep control of the downloaded music market.

1000 internet users in San Diego, California, are taking part in test run for IBM's new technology - called Madison by its designers - which will allow people with modems to download CD quality music from record company web sites and burn the tracks onto CDs or mini-discs.

What it is designed to stop is the illegal copying and distribution of music, something that users of the rapidly spreading MP3 format are currently able to do.

Already the battleground for control of the download market is crowded, with Real Audio, Liquid Audio and American telecommunications giant AT&T trying to provide standards that will impress the major record companies.

Chuck D - an outspoken critic of the major labels - released a new Public Enemy track called 'Swindler's Lust' on the new MP4 format (despite the name, MP4 is nothing to do with the Mpeg standard) which is like a stand-alone audio postcard that can link to the artist's web site. But it also makes copying and distribution difficult. It also only works on Windows and not Mac or Linux. Chuck has since made the track available as an MP3.

Meanwhile, other independent labels have embraced MP3 as a promotional tool. Underworld released a one-day only MP3 download of a new track and Beggars Banquet have put a track by Dream City Filmclub on their web-site. 

2.8.99 11:48 am Chuck D Online Bomb
(from Loud Records web site)
True revolutionaries never cease fighting. Freedoms are won, conditions are improved, but there is still injustice in this world -- the sort of institutionalized injustice that demands opposition. 

Chuck D knows this, and years after first declaring himself "Public Enemy #1," the enigmatic rap forefather is fighting a new battle. The battle against sheisty record label and radio station politics. A battle the Public Enemy frontman has chosen to fight in cyberspace. 

After shocking the industry with his pledge to release the newest PE album strictly over the net (cutting out Def Jam Records completely), Chuck is furthering his online assault with the introduction of, an internet radio station bringing the hottest underground joints in RealAudio format. Hosted by Chuck himself, the station began broadcasting on January 29th, with new shows twice per week. 

2.5.99 More and more, musicians are using the web to meet fans and post music. Record companies are singing a different tune.
(from Entertainment Weekly web site) by James Oliver Cury
"There's a fat man on the corner with a gigantic shopping bag of M&M's," says Public Enemy's Chuck D, describing the relationship between the music biz and the Internet. "And he divvies them out to people who want them. Then all of a sudden the bottom falls out, releasing a million and a half M&M's on the corner. And then the fat man says, 'Hey, stop picking up my M&M's!' That's what's going on."

Chuck got it right: Record companies are losing control over music distribution and sales, thanks in part to the proliferation of websites created and maintained by their own stars--who, on their end, are relishing the taste of independence. And it's not just the cyberheads or has-beens like David Bowie, Prince, and Todd Rundgren setting up shop online. These days, hip-hoppers (Public Enemy), hard rockers (Korn), and a thoroughly new and unpredictable passel of veteran popsters (the Kinks) are all getting Web happy, with or without label approval.

In fact, Chuck D found out just how his record company really felt about digital distribution recently. He posted a free MP3 remix of an old Public Enemy song ("Bring the Noise 2000") on his band's website ( last November, and Def Jam/PolyGram threatened to sue. He removed the song but shortly thereafter the label released Public Enemy from their contract--much to the delight of Chuck D. In early January, the rapper posted another track on the site, "Swindler's Lust," using a newer format (MP4). Def Jam has no comment.

Chuck hopes to make a statement about the record industry and get a better profit margin. But that's just one end of the spectrum. There are many motives behind these websites: to release music sooner rather than later (that's why the Kinks' Dave Davies offers an unreleased CD online), because they can escape artistic censorship (Korn), because MTV probably won't play a band's video (the Brian Jonestown Massacre), because technology is fun (Radiohead, Dave Navarro)--or maybe to just ride Net hype with the occasional webcast (Paul McCartney). If there's one thing all these acts agree on, it's that they're finally connecting with fans directly.

Korn, the lone platinum-selling saviors of hard rock in 1998, were among the first to reach out with a webcast: Their two-hour Korn Mangles the Web aired on in 1996 and was so successful that the band launched a separate site,, to offer more one-hour-long "shows" whenever possible. Lead singer Jonathan Davis appreciates the Net as a rules-free zone: "You can put whatever you want on there. We can cuss, we had porno stars, all kinds of stuff. That was awesome."

Other artists seek an unlimited distribution outlet. Dave Davies, the 52-year-old cofounder of and guitarist for the Kinks, shares his whole life at, proudly posting pictures and descriptions of his guitars, excerpts from his 1996 autobiography, Kink, information about his new two-CD retrospective (Unfinished Business on Velvel Records), and a Net-exclusive film score called Purusha and the Spiritual Planet that Davies and his son Russell recorded last year (he's only now working on the actual film). 

"I'm developing it as an animated feature," says Davies. "That's what's so great about the Internet: I can put the music out and sell it in limited edition while I'm still developing the same project. You couldn't do that years ago. You'd have a room piled full of scripts and music and not know what to do with it." Of course, Davies owns the rights to the Purusha music, and his son Christian is one of the site's webmasters. 

Control over art doesn't always come easy. For Chuck D, the Web is "the Wild Wild West and everybody's getting a gun." Many industry insiders share that view. "If you look farther down the road, there are more and more artists, more and more music, and less and less ways to get on the radio and MTV," says Marc Geiger, whose company, ARTISTdirect, develops and manages websites for Marilyn Manson, Beck, the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, and Korn. "This is ultimately the way people will get their music and videos. And the artists will make a considerably higher percentage of the dollar because they become the direct distributor." The flip side, of course, is that musicians will then have to find a way to promote and distribute their music without a record label's very wide reach. 

Surprisingly, many artists seem willing to trade profits for more direct contact with their listeners. "The Holy Grail for what the Internet offers artists is a database of fans," says Geiger. "Tom Petty said to his manager, 'I want to find out who and where my fans are.'" Davies remembers being a fan himself: "When I think back about growing up as a young aspiring musician, I would have died to have been able to hook up with Eddie Cochran or somebody online." Anyone check for recently?

2.3.99 P.E. Launches Net Radio Site 
(from Music Wire web site)
Chuck D and company debuted their net radio site,, this past weekend. On Jan 31st, Chuck and DJ Kamron brought the first show to RealAudio with hopes to bring more underground and independent hip-hop to the people. 

At the Public Enemy website Chuck wrote: 

Now dig this, the first thing we're gonna do is boycott corporate owned black radio stations because it's a total front. Black folk are religious to the radio in black communities and the crime of someone outside governing that word has to stop. I should say corporate owned urban stations but I'm calling it how I see it being that the thoughts, actions and selections are endorsed, chosen and approved by other folk that don't even live under the signal. I know it sounds crazy but we refuse to pay money for airplay. Do you know that program directors are gettin Benzes based on airplay. Well, it's a new day and they ain't gettin a g-damn dime outta me. Come late February we're namin names behind the payola game in radio, records and retail. White owned black radio is an oxymoron. 

Isn't it funny how few exec weasels can comment on the wreckage that the wil' web is about to do. We ain't got started yet... Now that PE is free of contract I'm roaming free safety like Nighttrain Lane, even tacklin some of our own playas... Look out... 

2.2.99 8:40 pm est Public Enemy Start Web Radio Site
(from SonicNet web site)
Web-savvy hip-hoppers Public Enemy launched their own Internet radio site Sunday, at The project kicked off with "The CountDown Show," hosted by P.E. leader Chuck D and DJ Wildman Steve; the show will continue as a regular program each Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. Steve hosts his own show of old-school rap jams called the "Hip-Hop Spot" Mondays at 9 p.m. EST. All shows are available for later listening in RealAudio.

2.1.99 "The Sound of Our Young World"
The Commissioner of Rap recalls the early days and forecasts the future of hip-hop
by Chuck D. of Public Enemy
(from 2.8.99 Vol. 153 No. 5 Time Magazine web site)
Twenty years of recorded rap music--that's right, and about 25 years of hip-hop. There is a difference, and many times folks confuse the two. Hip-hop is the term for urban-based creativity and expression of culture. Rap is the style of rhythm-spoken words across a musical terrain. It's the antithesis of country music, but the two do pretty much the same thing--reflect upon their environments with stories and statements. This message to anyone waiting for rap's death: Get over it, 'cause it ain't goin' nowhere.

The downsizing of music classes in the New York City school system led innovators like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and others to take two turntables, a mixer and a microphone and improvise an Americanization of the overdubbing style of Jamaican deejays. It was a whole new way of looking at, and thus expanding, music. By 1979, Kurtis Blow, Sugar Hill Gang and others were taking two- or three-hour party events and condensing them to minutes on wax. The irony of what's considered the first rap record, Rapper's Delight, was not how long the 15-min. version was but in how short a time the artists got the style down on a record. 

I remember the early '80s well. The first companies to release the music were black-run independents like Sugar Hill and Enjoy, which treated rap like a fad, preparing to bail out if it flopped, as disco had two or three years earlier. The contracts were dungeons on paper, and trendsetters like the Furious Five, Spoonie Gee, Fearless Four, Treacherous 3 and Cold Crush Brothers took an exploitative hit like a pack of bluesmen in a concrete Delta.

I recall when live shows were the main money stream for these lyrical Lewis and Clark cats, who put insecure '80s R.-and-B. groups in fear that they'd lose their crowd to a bunch of shouters. A few white-run independent record companies like Tommy Boy, Profile and Jive came along, offering still low and exploitative but better-than-before deals that exposed rap to national and international markets. From 1983 to 1986, I, and my soon-to-be Public Enemy partners, Professor Griff, Terminator X and Flavor Flav, promoted many of these sounds on college-radio station wbau on Long Island. The suburbs were getting their first real taste of hip-hop at the same time, with Run-D.M.C., Whodini, the Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Doug E Fresh, Slick Rick and Salt-N-Pepa all selling out arenas across America. Plus the movie screens were hit with films like Wildstyle, Beatstreet and Krush Groove. 

The disappearance of vinyl started with a third generation of rappers in what is often acknowledged as the classical period of hip-hop. Artists proved they could sell cassette albums for a full price and eventually tailor-made their music for the major record companies' brand-new profit pet, the CD. Performers like BDP, Eric B. and Rakim, Queen Latifah, Stetsasonic, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) and Public Enemy expanded the genre. This spread like fire, and other places in the U.S. started offering their own styles of rap. NWA, Ice-T, Too Short, Luke Skyywalker and 2 Live Crew were not from New York City, but all pushed the artistic envelope, challenging censorship and confronting issues like police brutality. In the '90s, this CNN of black America sonically infiltrated the homes and heads of all youth.

I've been to 40 countries, and I testify that this grass-roots transformation of culture has spread over the planet like a worldwide religion for those 25 and under. The verbal crusade has young people training themselves to speak English quicker than their schools could, albeit a tad different from the King's version. Asia, Australia, South America and Africa are quickly catching up in their appreciation of rap to areas traditionally attached to hip-hop in Europe, Japan, Canada and the U.S. It's something to see videos connect white kids in Utah to black kids in South Chicago to Croats and Brazilians. This is the sound and style of our young world, the vernacular used in today's speak from scholastics to sports. I've seen the dialogue spur and predict movements--the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992, the Million Man March, Martin Luther King Day in Arizona. But I've also seen it blur the line between fantasy and reality, possibly resulting in the unsolved deaths of two of hip-hop's finest ever--Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

As we head into the 21st century, rap music/hip-hop is in the earth-wide sound stream, the child of soul, R. and B. and rock 'n' roll, the by-product of the strategic marketing of Big Business, ready to pulse out to the millions on the wild, wild Web. It's difficult to stop a cultural revolution that bridges people together. Discussing differences through artistic communication and sharing interests in a common bond--rap music and hip-hop have achieved that in 20 years. From Lauryn Hill, Wu Tang, Mack 10 to Everlast, all you have to do is look around. Watch, feel and listen. It's only just begun.

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