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-Public Enemy

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Something Happening Here: Chuck D. puts all the hype and noise into perspective

(from Rolling Stone website)
Ten years ago, boomboxes across America were blaring Public Enemy anthems like "Fight the Power," "Don't Believe the Hype," and "Bring the Noise." Chuck D's confrontational, often controversial lyrics combined with Flavor Flav's jesting and a barrage of in-your-face beats and samples to propel the East Coast collective to the forefront of late Eighties rap scene, earning them three platinum albums in the process. 
Now, the original lineup -- Chuck D, Flav, Terminator X and Professor Griff -- as well as the original Bomb Squad production team have reunited for the soundtrack to Spike Lee's He Got Game, marking Public Enemy's first studio release in four years. The message of black empowerment is still clear, with lyrics like "When did state pen correct anything/When piles of us still be catchin' the bus" ("He Got Game"), and songs clearly questioning today's rap icons ("Is Your God a Dog"). Chuck D assures us this is not a one-off project. This summer, Public Enemy will offer up Bring the Noise 2000, the first in a series of archival releases. Each of the six albums in the set -- which will be released through 2002 -- will feature mega mixes of past hits and unreleased material. This fall will see the release of another Public Enemy studio album, There's a Poison Going On. 

Chuck D's years off from Public Enemy can hardly be called down time: He released the solo album Autobiography of Mistachuck; published his first book, Fight the Power: Chuck D on Rap, Race and Reality; started his own record label, Slam Jamz; created the Rapp Style clothing line; spearheaded the launch of the web "supersite" Rapp Station/Hip Hip Nation; and began developing REACH: Rappers Educating All Curricula Through Hip Hop to get rap artists involved in communities; and he has been delivering commentaries and features for Fox News. We spoke with Chuck D about whether a nation of millions is ready for another dose of Public Enemy. 

Did you back off from Public Enemy because you were tired of it? 

No, I was never tired of it. It's just that when you first get on it and do it, it's like you're getting on a locomotive. Eventually it becomes so big, the locomotive starts getting on you and you've really got to call time out and put your priorities in place. 

Was there any resistance from any of the original members to come back? 

I don't think you could say there was resistance. I just think it was a thing where everybody had to seize a portion, seize an area and go about it. I think everybody was open. Of course there were philosophical differences within É Just how much of the album were we going to skew toward the street and how much toward the movie? It's like sixty-five percent movie and thirty-five percent street. 

On the first track, "Resurrection," you say, "Ain't nothing changed." Does that refer to your music at all? 

It was to the attitude that we have. Nothing changed because we are going to say the same things and be abrasive at points, but we're going to make sense as we talk. We're not going to do things for extreme reasons, just for the sake of doing it. I think you've seen rap and hip-hop go to extremes for dumb reasons when you had two of the top guys get shot and killed. To me that wasn't healthy for the industry at all. We're going to say what we got to say regardless of its popularity or what. 

What led to that in the rap community? 

I think a lack of development and concern by the companies that sign the artists. That's been kind of detrimental. The companies haven't been encouraging young people to push the envelope creative-wise. Young people would rather hold onto their contract. He's going to try to do the right thing and keep his contract as opposed to go against the grain. So that's different than it was ten years ago. There wasn't that big money at stake so therefore it was all upon the creativity. Now it's about the Benjamin, so people want to protect that road. 

Are you moving in any specific direction lyrically? 

What I try to do -- at least lyrically -- is make things stand. A wind storm won't blow some of these lyrics to the side. Nor will hype or press releases or liner notes. Some of these lyrics will stand strong, and I think that's a good direction. 

It's not surprising to see you work with KRS-One and Masta Killa from Wu-Tang on here, but it was strange to see you working with Stephen Stills on "He Got Game." 

I think we've come up with a relevant upgrade of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on "He Got Game." If you're going to touch a classic, bring it up and make it move and make it mean something new or make it mean something stronger than when it was first said. I think when somebody like Puffy does a "Missing You" with a Sting, for "Every Breath You Take," he paves the road in society to make something like that less corny. Not to say we would have been afraid to try it. I mean if he knocked down the barrier, maybe we could obliterate it. 

Are your three kids big Public Enemy fans? 

No, daddy makes old played out s---. É It is a little hectic sometimes for my oldest daughter. If I come into a school, a lot of kids look at it like it's something. She might feel embarrassed about it sometimes because, really, no matter what you do, daddy is never really cool. I mean, I guess I'm cooler than most of the parents, but É . 

What's the most important feature you've done on your Fox show? 

I think what we did talking about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and the aftermath of thirty years since his assassination. I actually went to the King Center and sat with Martin the 3rd and kicked it. The most fun I think is when I went down and covered Elvis week and sat with Rufus Thomas and Little Richard and got their take on what they thought of Elvis. Don't think they were slamming Elvis, they just slammed the whole aspect of him being an icon by the society of America. They saw him come from a quiet white boy admiring of black music into this monster that America created. So there's a respect for Elvis and his craft. When I mentioned Elvis in "Fight the Power" I think I was talking about the icon of Elvis. 

Your book title "Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality" -- what is the reality? 

Reality is that you have a black community in the United States that's not in control of itself. It's still in the plantation state without control of its economics, education, enforcement or environment. Therefore, it's still in the plantation state where you have other people dictating its philosophies down into it. So you're bound to have all these side effects of people and individuals. 

Is the black community in America any better off now than when Public Enemy started out? 

I think the black community knows a lot of things about itself that it took for granted before. But every five years you have a different generation -- generations are now five-year gaps -- so the question is, what are people going to do with the information that they've got?

Chuck D Strikes Back: Public Enemy take no prisoners with There's a Poison Goin' On 

Between 1987 and 1991, Public Enemy changed hip-hop forever. On Fear of a Black Planet and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, they charged hip-hop with a mission. Other rappers had made political statements with their music, but with PE there was no dividing line: their music was a political statement. Their entire sound (courtesy of the Bomb Squad) matched the passion and message of Chuck D: "There's something wrong going on, dammit, and I ain't gonna stand for it." 

PE remained active throughout the 1990s, releasing 1994's Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age and the soundtrack to Spike Lee's 1998 film He Got Game. Chuck D kept himself busy working as a television reporter and commentator (for MTV and Fox), lecturing at colleges, and releasing his 1996 solo album The Autobiography of Mistachuck. But none of these projects had the impact--or the urgency--of PE's best work. 

Everything changed in 1999. Having decided that the future of music lay online, PE broke from Def Jam/Universal and decided to concentrate their efforts on their extensive Web site and in working with the Web-based label Atomic Pop. Chuck D spoke with Hip-Hop editor Randy Silver about PE's new album, There's a Poison Goin' On, and getting back into the groove. Between the time of Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age and The Autobiography of Mistachuck and the He Got Game soundtrack, there were a few years where PE were relatively quiet. Was part of that due to frustration--were you waiting for the world to catch up with you? 

Chuck D: I don't get frustrated. It was only business. And it never would stop me from doing art. But there was a planting-seed time when I really felt that it wasn't beneficial to be the best artist I could be under those particular terms. And I released The Autobiography of Mistachuck in the middle just to show people that I'm still omnipresent. 

And I did about 9 or 10 different things to always have my face and my words in the media, because in this particular industry, and in all multimedia, [when you're] out of sight, [you're] out of mind. But I never was out of sight, and I was never out of mind. You're still finishing up the new album, There's a Poison Goin' On. How's it going? 

Chuck D: It's going well. It's what we call 21st-century music. And in 1994 when I made Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age, we predicted that the ways of distributing music would change, that the music business would change. I mean, people can go to Muse Sick and find [that], on Harry Allen's interactive superhighway phone call to Chuck D, we mentioned everything that is happening now. And we made that record for 1999, but this record here, There's a Poison Goin' On, is definitely for the year 2000. So it's going really well. 

Our single "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???" speaks volumes in the terminology and what we're talking about in music. And it was almost like, if you know anything about comic books, Public Enemy did the Captain America job, where we were frozen in ice and now, all of a sudden, here we are again. 

The rest of the Poison LP is aggressive new music, and we touch on some topics that... I feel that a lot of times in rap and hip-hop, sometimes we stick to the same topics a little bit too much. I mean, how many player records can you have, how many baller records can you have? I mean, one might be good, but do we need a hundred of them? 

So I have a track on the album called "Kevorkian." And I'm not talking about Jack per se--I'm talking about how the people that have run Western civilization have been worse than Jack Kevorkian, you know? 

I have a cut called "LSD." Which could stand for "Lawyers Should Die"--you figure that one out. 

"Crash"--we're talking about Y2Kaos before we even get there. 

Another cut is called "I." And on that, I was influenced by Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia." Especially the video, when he walks through the streets of Philadelphia, for the movie Philadelphia. And "I" is a situation where I'm walking through the streets of the 'hood, and not only do I not recognize the 'hood, I don't recognize myself! 

The whole concept is that, in society, there are a lot of things happening to people that we don't even notice. And these are poisons, and if you know anything about poison, you know poisons can take you over unknowingly. And there are a lot of poisons in the environment, and people are being killed slowly in the process. This is the real "Killing Me Softly." I had a chance to listen to "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???" today, and it sounds to me as though you're using the song as an opportunity to sum up what's been going on over the past few years--and over the past couple of decades--in hip-hop, and then getting ready to explode into the next century. 

Chuck D: I don't think it's ever been done, especially in rap and hip-hop, to actually--for the lack of better words--revive yourself from the dead. We don't like to say we were dead, but we like to say the heart was beating really slowly. We were preserved in ice, and all of a sudden we're a mammoth! 

At the beginning of the decade, we put out a seminal album, Fear of a Black Planet. And we would like to say that when all is said and done, just like when Rolling Stone published their list of the best albums of the decade... I don't know how you can make that [list] if you don't make it in January 2000, because we feel that There's a Poison Goin' On will be just as significant an album as Fear of a Black Planet was. So it would be really nice to bookend the decade with some Public Enemy records. And believe me, we're going against all odds, and that makes us feel really good. 

You don't intentionally make records like this. This is what you call a "What the fuck is that?" record. And we've done it before, like on "Public Enemy Number One," "Bring the Noise," "Rebel Without a Pause," and "Welcome to the Terrordome." But you don't make those records intentionally. You luck out and make them. And that's where we felt we got lucky, where they're not measured by the number of people who go to the store and buy them.

I mean, all those records, they were outsold by other Public Enemy records. But as far as records that turn the tide musically and have influence, I think "Do You Wanna Go Our Way???" stands in [with] those four as being the fifth one. After not hearing from you for a few years, a lot of people would think that your sound would have changed. That's what usually happens--people who take some time off feel the need to fit in with new trends. But the new single really fits in with your older work. Does that consistency come from the fact that you were a little older than most when you first started out? 

Chuck D:Well, I don't think that affected my hip-hop mentality in the beginning. We made records in the beginning because we were daring and didn't give a fuck, and I think that still goes now. 

It's just that, sometimes if you have the same reckless abandon and you're within a corporate structure, you can't operate--you're handcuffed and, artistically, you can't make a move. So that's why, over the past two years especially, it was, like, [let's deal with] everything online first, and everything offline maybe second or third--but it's not primary with us. 

So you've got to pick and choose your poison, no pun intended, and the rest of the industry, they're locked in contracts that are going to be good for some, but it's going to be really difficult legally for people to have their feet on land and water at the same time. And I'm glad we jumped from the land to the water and that we're floating in our own boat. 

In the past, the record companies, it was in their best interest to be ahead of the curve in technology. They had the means to make the product, record the product, and release the product, and the public had to wait for their big say-so. 

But here's a situation where the public developed the technology first, and the companies are caught out there in the open. I mean, [Atomic Pop's] Al Teller told them years ago, "Hey, this is what I think you should take advantage of." And they were stuck up sleeping in the clouds. Now it's starting to rain. And you're helping seed the clouds, to start the thunderstorm. 

Chuck D: I planted seeds into the ground, so the rain is necessary for me. The rain is bad for them. It's good for me.

Listen Up - Chuck D has some choice words for the pimps in the music industry

(from Wired Magazine) by Jesse Freund 
Chuck D may be sampling the mellow sounds of Stephen Stills, but politically the firebrand rapper is still louder than a bomb. Public Enemy's frontman pissed off his record label in late '98 by posting tracks from an unreleased album in MP3, a compressed audio format that squeezes entire CD-quality songs into Net-friendly packets. Surprise: Def Jam parent PolyGram demanded the songs be yanked from and sent in the suits. The Recording Industry Association of America then announced that it was finally embracing digital distribution - in the form of an ultrasecure pay-to-play format that will compete against MP3. Too late, says Chuck D, who has promised to "ride the MP3 like a muthafuckin' cowboy." In January he slammed the industry's greed on a new cut called "Swindler's Lust" - released in MP4. 

Wired: Why did you decide to post songs to the Web in MP3? You knew PolyGram, which owned the tracks, would object. 

Chuck D: Major record labels are like dinosaurs. They move slow. Our album Bring the Noise 2000 was slated for a March '98 release, but PolyGram slept on it. So we released it in MP3 on our supersite. Why not? Our fans wanted the music. And we believe in the technology. We didn't sell the tracks, so to us it was the same as just making more promotional copies. 

Wired: Your label thought otherwise. 

Chuck D: Yeah, the lawyers came running and told my manager to take it down. They don't like MP3 because it can obliterate the middleman. But the industry won't be able to pimp MP3, so they're going to have to figure out how to co-opt it. 

Wired: And the Recording Industry Association of America is already on the march. Does its anti-MP3 format, the Secure Digital Music Initiative, stand a chance? 

Chuck D: No. The dam has burst, and the chunks are in the water. 

Wired: Could be - Billy Idol and the Beastie Boys have had similar run-ins over unauthorized Web releases. 

Chuck D: It's the chicken coming home to roost, the leveling of the playing field, the little man getting his chance. 

Wired: And what will the little man do with all his new power? 

Chuck D: Soon you'll see a marketplace with 500,000 independent labels - the majors can co-opt all they want, but it's not going to stop the average person from getting into the game. Today a major label makes a CD for as little as 80 cents, then sells it wholesale for $10.50 so retailers can charge $14 - that's highway robbery. They were able to pimp that technology. Well, MP3 is a technology they can't pimp. 

Wired: Yet the industry says it's a technology that promotes piracy. 

Chuck D: Look, this is what I do because the shit has hit the fans. We're already making a big move with MP4, which compresses files more. You can email tracks. 

Wired: How does all this affect the music being made today? 

Chuck D: There's incredible, diverse talent. But the way radio, retail, and record companies govern the music is whack - playola, payola, and censorship turn artists into one-track ponies. 

Wired: Can the Net change the way big music does business? 

Chuck D: Say an independent label has a studio. If this label cuts a record, it has to go out and distribute 10,000 pieces of hard-software in order to get exposure. The Internet eliminates that need, so an independent can test a market without ever pressing a CD. The demo, as we know it, will be eradicated. 

Wired: What will this mean? 

Chuck D: You'll see $3 albums, which artists won't mind if they're getting the money. And the public will ask, "Shit, I can get 25 songs off the Net and make my own CD - or have a RealPlayer in my car - why the hell should I spend $14 at a store?" 

The true revenge will come when the major labels start dropping their prices. I can see the public saying, "OK, I could go to the store and pick up the album I want for $5, but I can get it on the Net for fucking $3." 

Wired: Good for the consumer, but is it good for the musician? 

Chuck D: It's great for the musician. Instead of just depending on a song and a video, the Net will bring back live performances. Artists will be able to release a song every two weeks, instead of waiting six, seven months for a label to put it out. A band can become like a broadcaster. 

Wired: How so? 

Chuck D: We have our site. We recently launched the Bring the Noise online radio show. Our Rappstation online radio station, which hopes to be the ESPN of hip hop, is coming. And we just started Slam Jamz, the affiliated superinteractive label. 

Wired: Affiliated superinteractive label? 

Chuck D: It's going to be a label on the Web that people can download music from. We should have a good stable of artists by 2002, and then we'll release singles like crazy. We'll also offer videos that people can burn to disc. That's my vision. There are Web sites, there are supersites, and we're trying to be a superstation. 

Wired: Why a superstation? 

Chuck D: A Web site - whoopdee, my mom's got a Web site. A supersite has a lot of traffic and capability for streaming and commerce. A superstation will be interfaced with television, so you can get real-time feeds. For a consumer, it's about getting what you want fast. Blam. Then who the fuck needs radio or network TV? 

Wired: What about the Microsoft trial - should they shut down Mr. Bill, or let him play his game? 

Chuck D: When someone comes along and dominates an industry, of course you get a whole bunch of losers screaming, hoping somehow they can beat 'em down. Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser. Bill Gates is Michael Jordan. 

Wired: Still, people complain the new tools are dividing society. Are we seeing the birth of a nation of information have-nots? 

Chuck D: Computers will be available to everyone. They're getting cheaper, and in the environment I come from, if you don't got it, you borrow it - "Let me come over and make a CD." There's a community that will network this equipment. When people start talking, "In the black community there aren't any computers ..." Wasn't long ago there weren't cell phones or pagers, and now they run abundant. It's only a matter of time before someone will jack you for your laptop. 

Wired: Well, the music industry says that's what MP3 is all about - stealing. Does it piss you off to see your music pirated? 

Chuck D: To the pirates, I say the more the merrier. Success comes from the fans first - if someone is going to pirate something of mine, I just have to make sure to do nine or ten new things. I mean, you can't download me.

Do Believe The Hype 
(from Yahoo Internet Life magazine)
Bring the noise. And when you bring it, bring it via the Internet. That was the message sent, loud and clear, by the political-rap supergroup Public Enemy during its December 1998 dustup with Universal Music. After PE cofounder and spokesman Chuck D posted .MP3s of remixed PE hits on the group's official Web site [], Universal cried foul and forced PE to remove the songs. Overnight, Public Enemy was thrust into the spotlight--not for the politics of race but for the politics of technology.

With typical candor, Chuck hit back, releasing an angry statement on the site: "Today Polygram/Universal or whatever the f**k they're now called forced us to remove the mp3 version of Bring The Noise 2000. The execs, lawyers and accountants who have lately made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp."

Weeks later, PE upped the ante with a straight-to-Web song, "Swindler's Lust," that lambasted Universal for trying to curtail digital distribution. The song appeared not only in .MP3 but also in .MP4, a secure format created by Global Music Outlet [], and featured a chorus--"If you don't own the master / Then the master owns you"--that borrowed a slogan popularized by another Net music pioneer, the Artist. Soon after came the online radio network, and a series of online labels united at In the midst of all this activity, Chuck D (né Carlton Ridenhour) sat down to discuss economics, creativity, and the new technology.

Y-LIFE: What was your original idea behind putting the Public Enemy remixes online?

CHUCK D: Those were for an album that we had planned to release in March '98. The record company had slept on the concept of it, and we thought it was an important project. Instead of just letting it sit, we thought that we'd just toss it out there. It's no different than having promotional copies of it.

Y-LIFE: Were you surprised when the label got angry about this?

CHUCK D: We expected it, because most of these paranoias and fears are built from the legal department. Businesses are run by businesspeople instead of creative people, so we have the legal and accounting people looking at this as a five- or six-year threat, not as something that's going to be helpful right now.

Y-LIFE: What do you mean by "a five- or six-year threat"?

CHUCK D: Right now, the Internet is a great promotional vehicle to parallel or spur record-company sales. In five or six years, people--if they can get their music over the Net--might burn CDs themselves. And if they can download music to the CDs themselves, it might make record companies, record stores, and even radio stations kind of obsolete.

Y-LIFE: So that's the effect the Net can have on consumers. What about bands?

CHUCK D: We're out of our Def Jam contract, and now we're allowed to operate in the marketplace any way that we want. That's a very rare thing. For the average hip-hop group, I don't think they're privy to knowing the importance of this. Usually, hip-hop is falling behind as to the running of the business. Hip-hop is the last to know. Companies invest millions in hip-hop, get it all back using all conventional means, and artists don't challenge them. You have a 17-, 18-, or 22-year-old kid who's doing rap. The record companies spend money on their behalf paying retail outfits, radio stations, promotional people, distribution companies, and video companies. They spend money on the best studio, the best mastering plant. Then they tell the artists: "We've invested a lot of money in you! We've given you what you wanted!" [Laughs] I own five studios, so costs are down or nonexistent. I come at it from the other direction. I have a relationship with the artists and producers to say, "Look, when we cut, we can cut fresh and go out next week." We gradually get into a form of e-commerce, which is beneficial to the artist and producer directly, and also, eventually, to the fan.

Y-LIFE: As you know, the record companies are banding together to stamp out .MP3s, or at least adjust the digital-music standard. How do you see this battle they're waging?

CHUCK D: You have a guy on the corner with a big bag of M&Ms. He's divvying them out to each open hand. He has a million M&Ms in this bag, and there are about 150 open hands, but he's only giving out 10 or 12. He's so greedy. Eventually he takes a couple of steps, and the bottom of the bag breaks. The M&Ms go splattering all across the corner. He starts yelling: "Hey, you can't do that! Don't pick them up! Those are my M&Ms!" There's a scramble on the floor, and it's like, "Yeah, right, buddy." That's the major companies. It's like the Wild, Wild West, and everybody's getting a gun, and they're trying to make the laws in the process. Hey, good luck!

Y-LIFE: Are your new projects going to be online-only?

CHUCK D: They're going to be online-only, and if anyone wants to make a deal for the hard product, it becomes another step. My producers in my studios are happy about that, because no longer will tapes sit. Most people think of the Net as being something in addition to how they operate. Me, I look at it as being my primary move.

Y-LIFE: What do you see as the future of rap online?

CHUCK D: Worldwide access, the international thing, is something that I've been trying to push in rap for the last 12 years. Internationally, Public Enemy is predominant in trying to tell people that hip-hop is almost like a worldwide youth religion or crusade. And it's beneficial for artists to understand that the United States is one country out of many. That's something that works well with us. That's why having my Internet label works well for me, because I know that I'm using the whole planet.

Jason Gross is a New York-based freelance writer. This is his first feature for Y-Life.

Y-Life: What was your original idea behind putting the Public Enemy remixes online?

Chuck D: Those were for an album that we had originally planned to release in March '98. The record company had slept on the concept of it and we thought it was an important project. Instead of just letting it sit, we thought that we'd just toss it out there. It's no different than having promotional copies of it.

Y-Life: Were you surprised when the got angry about this?

Chuck D: We expected it because most of these paranoias and fears are built from the legal department. We expected it to come down from legal to the rest of the company. Businesses are run by businesspeople instead of creative people so we have the legal and accounting people looking at this as a five or six year threat and not as something that's going to be helpful right now. They look at it long term.

Y-Life: What do you mean by a five or six year threat?

Chuck D: Right now, the Internet is a great promotional vehicle to parallel record company sales or spur record company sales. We also know that in five or six years, people, if they can get their music directly over the Net, might burn CDs themselves. And if they can download music to the CDs themselves, it might make record companies, record stores and even radio stations kind of obsolete.

Y-Life: Hip-hop was once marginalized, but now outsells genres like rock and country. What do you think the effect of the Net on hip-hop in general will be?

Chuck D: Usually, hip-hop is falling behind as to the runnings of the business. Hip-hop is going to be last to know. Now, companies invest millions in hip-hop, get it all back using all conventional means, and artists don't challenge them because they aren't aware of the platform where they operate. And that's what's going on now. You have a 17, 18 or 22-year-old kid who's doing rap. The record companies spend money on their behalf paying retail outfits, radio stations, promotional people, distribution companies, and video companies. They spend money on the best studio, the best mastering plant. Then they tell the artists 'We've invested a lot of money in you! We've given you what you wanted!' [laughs] I own five studios so the costs are down or non-existent. I come at it from the other direction. I have a relationship with the artists and the producers to say 'Look, when we cut, we can cut fresh and go out next week.' We gradually get into a form of e-commerce which is beneficial to the artist directly, the producer directly and also eventually to the fan at a much cheaper cost than what they're spending in the marketplace.

Y-Life: As you know, the record companies are banding together to stamp out MP3s, or at least adjust the digital music standard. How do you see this battle they're waging?

Chuck D: You have a guy on the corner with a big bag of M&M's. He's the big fat guy with the bag. He's divvying them out to each open hand on the corner. He has a million M&M's in this bag, and there are about 150 open hands but he's only giving out ten or twelve. He's so greedy. Eventually, he takes a couple of steps and the bottom of the bag breaks. The M&M's go splattering all across the corner. He starts yelling 'Hey, you can't do that! Don't pick them up! Those are MY M&M's!' There's a scramble on the floor and it's like, 'yeah right, buddy.' That's the major companies. It's like the wild, wild West and everybody's getting a gun and they're trying to make the laws in the process. Hey, good luck!

Y-Life: Are your new projects going to be online only?

Chuck D: They're going to be online only and if anyone wants to make a deal for the hard product, it becomes another step. My producers in my studios are happy about that because no longer will tapes sit. No longer will you make something and then it waits to get shopped, waits to get approved. I think in '99, I've made it possible by planting seeds in '97 and '98 to primarily operate online. Most people think of the Net as being something in addition to how they operate. Me, I look at it as being my primary move.

Fear of a Free Planet: A Q&A with Public Enemy number one, Chuck D., who fights the power by uploading unreleased music to his group's web site
(From January 1999 Playboy Scan web site) - Mark Bazer
It all started innocently enough on Public Enemy's part. Wanting to get more music out to their fans, Chuck D. and company uploaded their unreleased-on-CD album Bring the Noise onto the Public Enemy Web site in early December. Subsequently, Public Enemy's record label, Def Jam/Polygram, which owns the recordings, went ballistic. Public Enemy agreed to take the album off its site, but vowed there was more to come. 

Why was Def Jam/Polygram so freaked out about Public Enemy's music being available free on the Net? And, why are the other major record companies likely paying close attention to the matter? Well, the Public Enemy controversy is bound to be just one of many in the coming years. Thanks to compression technologies of audio files called MP3s and MP4s, bands can now download CD-quality music onto the Internet, selling the music cheaply, or, as in this case, giving it away. Listeners can then burn the music onto their own compact discs. The possible result: no need for major record companies and retail outlets.

For Chuck D., that means putting music back where it belongs: into the hands of the artists and the people. Sounding a little like George Bush and his "thousand points of light," Chuck D. likes to talk about the "million artists and 500,000 labels" he foresees on the Net in the future. And true to their word, Public Enemy struck again, releasing the anti-music biz track, Swindler's Lust (sounds a little too much like Schindler's List for this writer's tastes). One of the song's lyrics: "Vultures of culture/ Dollar a rhyme, but we barely get a dime/ If you don't own the master, the master own you." 

As of Wednesday, January 13, Swindler's Lust was still up on the Public Enemy site. 

Playboy Online talked with Chuck D. about the controversy and music on the Net, one day before Swindler's Lust went up on the Public Enemy site. 

Def Jam had no comment. 

Playboy Online: What is Bring the Noise 2000? 

Chuck D: It was a catalog archive album that was put through the reissue department of Polygram. It was supposed to come out March of '98. Def Jam didn't allow it to come out, and we thought it was a good time to at least release it to the fans. Matter of fact, we thought the best time was to release it this summer when we were headlining the Smokin' Grooves tour. It's all catalog material remixed and industrialized with a couple of unreleased songs. 

PO: Why didn't they put it out? 

Chuck D: Def Jam has this whole marketing reason, and that's one of the things that kind of has strayed me away from the business, so to speak. Now everything is hurry up, "we got to really methodically plan how we get to first base," and then, it's just a slow road. For example, the record companies now just promote one single. It's almost like the movie industry. They'll promote one single, and if doesn't take [in] three weeks, it's like, boom, it's outta here. 

PO: Who took BTN2000 down? 

Chuck D: We had to take it down because, understand, they own the masters to a lot of those records, so they requested we take it down. We didn't sell anything. We were just giving it away free. It's no different than promotional copies, but since they own the rights to the masters on those particular songs, we decided to take it down, retreat and then plan our next launch of attack. 

PO: On that note, you recently wrote on the Public Enemy Web site, "[Universal/Polygram is] runnin' scared, and BTN2000 mp3 was only a test to certify their paranoia." What exactly does that mean? 

Chuck D: Well, the Internet and the new ways of downloading and transferring music down to software, hard software, is going to change or is changing the way we think of the distribution of the music. Basically, anything I do musically, 75 percent of it's gonna be through the Net, through the MP4s and the MP3s and through the Web. 

PO: What about your record label? 

Chuck D: [laughs] We'll cross that road when we get there. 

PO: Do you expect the record company to say anything about Swindler's Lust? 

Chuck D: We'll see, right? 

PO: Do you worry about making money by releasing your songs on the Internet? 

Chuck D: Number one, first and foremost, I'm an artist, and as an artist, I try to expand the boundaries of what an artist can do to make a living and make money. I make the records; companies sell them. 

PO: Do you care about making money off the Internet? 

Chuck D: I think it's a future issue, but my whole thing is it's got to be a situation where my fan base feels like it has an equal chance to acquire it, and just like it, love it without getting caught in the bureaucracy of record companies, radio stations and retail outlets that's charging them $15. 

PO: What about the fact that white people are the ones with the most access to the Internet? 

Chuck D: There's 263 million folks [in the U.S.], and black people make up as much as 15 percent, or as little as 15 percent, and Latinos make up about 10 to 12 percent, so what are we talking about? 

PO: I'm talking about Internet access. 

Chuck D: Well, white people gonna have the most computers I guess till the year 3000. There's just more of them. So, are you saying as far as getting music across to the black fan base? 

PO: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. 

Chuck D: Well, most white kids are buying the rap music that's sold in the stores anyway. But, my whole thing is, as with cellular phones and pagers and stuff like that, the course of computers is gonna come down where everybody's gonna have it just like they have a microwave. 

PO: When do you think that's gonna be? 

Chuck D: Couple of years. But, I mean, you know, you have millions of people on the Net right now, [and it's going to] double or triple in the next two or three years or so. That's the biggest fear of the record companies. It's not what it's gonna do now with MP4, MP3, downloading of music. They're looking at the five-year run. Now it's a fantastic paralleling promotional vehicle, but their fear is that in five years, it will undercut their relationship with the retail, radio and the public. 

PO: Do you think record companies care at all about the art? 

Chuck D: If Brillo pads could sell for $18, they'd be in the Brillo pad business.

PO: Do you have a goal with all this? 

Chuck D: The goal I'd like to see happen is people being able to make their own CDs in their homes and make decisions based on them looking into areas instead of being programmed on what they should buy. 

PO: How are people programmed? 

Chuck D: Turn on the television, and they have no other choice but to watch what's thrown at them. Hypocrisy and pay and playola -- it might cost as much as $2 million to market a record these days, whereas ten to 12 years ago, it might have only cost $50,000 to market and promote a rap album. 
What I hope to happen, what is gonna happen, you know the day of the demo is dead. Technology has allowed all these musicians across the country to say, "Well, fuck going to the record studio. I can build my own little studio." Now with computers, the studio now exists inside the computer. Everything you need to do is within the computer and within your head as opposed to what you can see physically in the studio. So with all these musicians having their own studios making ready-for-record material, the day of the demo is dead. The day of sending it to L.A. or New York or Nashville and sitting in some clueless A&R person's office is almost gonna be a waste of time when people can cut, and then go right to the public and say, "Hey, this is what I've done" and get that real response. It's no different at this point right now than the record company pressing up 10,000 promotional copies and getting it to their circles. 

[As] the Internet expands, that ability to get to the public, not just domestic, but international, the advantages lie in people being able to say, "Hey, I can cut fresh, fuck the bureaucracy, and I can be up the next week, and I can be very topical." With record companies, there's easily a four-month to five-month clearance and lag time. And the lawyers have made that all possible. Bottom line: The lawyers have made all this possible so they can get paid. 

PO: OK, OK. Do you think putting out music on the Internet is anything like rap was in its earliest days? 

Chuck D: In a way, but you really can't put a finger on this 'cause it's totally new, because it revises the way we think of distributing product. For example, if a person can get an album downloading it onto their own computer where they play the CD-ROM, [and] where you can burn your own CDs, and even if they pay a fee of $4 or $5, why would they go to the store and pay $12 for it? It levels out the playing field, so to speak, where the consumer gets to hear, see and then choose at the end of the day. 

PO: If you weren't Public Enemy, if you were just an average Joe, could you get the attention you're getting on the Net? 

Chuck D: You have a lot of people who are doing it now. But you know, I mean, sometimes, they'll need somebody to step up in the middle of their mixin' and fight for them as well. I'm down for seeing a million artists and 500,000 labels. The "Big Five" [record companies] -- they're not down to see that. 

PO: So, that's what you envision in the future? 

Chuck D: Give the everyday person a chance. Level out the playing field, you know? Everybody got to get their 15 minutes of fame. So, let the party begin, right? 

PO: What's the state today for you putting music on the Net? What can you and what can't you do? 

Chuck D: Right now, I can do anything. And I feel like I can do anything. Who's gonna bust my ass? 

PO: Yeah, but legally speaking? 

Chuck D: Ehhh, I've probably been sued more than anybody I know.

1.15.99 Ticking Bomb 
(from Rolling Stone web site)
Digital crusader Chuck D still aims to be the music industry's public enemy No. 1
As the music industry trembles at the gathering storm clouds of MPEG technology, Public Enemy mastermind Chuck D is dancing in the rain and shouting out to heaven for more. Bring it on, he says, licking his chops at the havoc to come when the proverbial s--- hits the fan. When Public Enemy's former label Def Jam ("Def Scam" he now calls them) cried foul at his posting of tracks from the group's unreleased remix album, Bring the Noise 2000, on, D removed them and posted a venemous note in reply. "It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire," he wrote. "The execs, lawyers and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp ... I'm glad to be a contributor to the bomb." In other words, he may have lost the battle, but the war . . . that's just heating up.
To wit, the Public Enemy site now features a brand new song, "Swindler's Lust," from the group's forthcoming album, There's a Poison Goin' On. The track is available for free download in its entirety in the just-unveiled MP4 format, which features near CD-quality sound in a stand-alone form (no special player required) that can be attached to e-mail. Fans will have to wait until spring for Public Enemy to drop the rest of the album, but D promises that the whole shebang will be available on the Web, in addition to traditional disc form. (He's currently reviewing his options for the hard format distribution). We caught up with Mistachuck to find out more about the album and the revolution to come.

RS: You're pretty much the one to watch when it comes to the brave new world of downloadable music on the Web. How long have you been on board?

Chuck D: We've been dealing with the Web for five years. On our liner notes to our last album, Muse Sick-N-Our Mess Age, we made up a picture for 1999 that there would be a change to come in the music business. We predicted that there would be an alternative way of distributing music versus the industry trying to catch up. We've been toying with the concept for a while, preparing ourselves. Last summer, while headlining Smokin' Grooves, we set up our super site that was gonna spread most of our noise, and that was That was the stepping stone for dealing with downloadable music such as MP3, which is already set up and moving, and now [there's] MP4 to try to change the way we think of getting music to the people today.

RS: So, what format do you forsee the next Public Enemy album, There's a Poison Goin' On, taking?

Chuck D: We'll offer it to the world in MP3, MP4 ... maybe for a period of four to eight weeks. We're looking into making a hard deal, but only for one album at a time. It'll either be independently distributed or, you know, there's gonna be no long-term distributing contract anywhere, and people are gonna have to deal with us roamin' free safety through the industry.

RS: Any prospective partners yet?

Chuck D: Not yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll come running. Right now everybody and their third mother's knocking on the door.

RS: Is it safe to assume there was no love lost when you left Def Jam in December?

Chuck D: No. But, you know, we're on two different sides. Me, you know, I'm an ally for the art and on the flip side; the record companies as they exist today . . . I mean, s---, if they could sell Brillo pads for $17, they would do it. It's a bottom line thing with them. 

RS: So do you admire the route the Artist has taken?

Chuck D: Yeah, I'm definitely following in the big steps of the Artist. Prince -- I call him Prince -- he's allowed for us fellow artists to call him that. Matter of fact, in the song "Swindler's Lust" the hookline "If you don't own the master, the master owns you" is from comments he's said. So I definitely tip my hat to him in that regard.

RS: The industry is nervous about MP3 because it undercuts the selling of music. How about you as an artist, how do you make ends meet when you put your music up for grabs on the web?

Chuck D: Well, artists are going to have to truly expand their realm. I mean, one thing that's expanding is you don't have the constrictions of being trapped in a 2000 by 3000-mile box with a conglomerate owning your rights to the universe. I think that we're arguing the point of what are universal rights? Is cyberspace part of the universe, and why are artists signing away those rights anyway? It's like, if I could get to Venus, why the f--- do they have the rights when they can't? So you'll see artists actually into being more and more fan-accessible. 

As far as money goes, well, you can't download a shirt, you can't download a concert. Fans wanna see the artist still get down and do their thing. Acquiring a CD nowadays, there's too many middlemen involved. I think the three enemies to me are, like, in this order: record companies, radio, retail. Retail says that they're your friend, you know, but they could give less. Radio, there's so much payola going on that the average person, if they have their [own] company, they can't compete because there's a $150,000 video quota or $75,000 dollars to radio to get played nationally. We have to say f--- that, there's too many middlemen that the fan is paying for. So my whole thing is, like, the artists will truly become artists and actually be on top of the s--- and have a worldwide audience to begin to explore. I think it's a good thing.

RS: Have you ever had any reservations about taking music to the web?

Chuck D: No, none at all. Somebody was asking me earlier, "How do you feel about the hip-hop nation not really being aware of MP3?" I say, well, they will be. Once upon a time in the hood we didn't have cellular phones and pagers either, and now they're cellular phone and page crazy. So it's key for some of us to be ahead of the curve instead of on the curb.

RS: Do you have any big plans for the year 2000?

Chuck D: To make every record company industry exec know my name in fear. To disrupt as much s--- as possible. 

RS: So are you the "poison" in the title of the new album?

Chuck D: Well, really it's talkin' about something else, but as time goes on, it's referring to me, I guess. I'm the poison goin' on, right?

RS: Any teaser about what that album might sound like?

Chuck D: All I know it sounds like Rage Against the Machine collided with Redman crashed into the Chemical Brothers and fell on top of Pink Floyd. The track that everybody gotta watch out for it 1999 is called "Do You Wanna Go Our Way." We also got a cut on there called "LSD," which means "Lawyers Should Die." Or it could be "Lawyers Suck Dick," either one. When the lawyers in the industry switched over to being executives, I thought that was the most blasphemous crime ever done in the music business -- load of weasels being on both sides at the same time. So I spent those last five years goin', ready, aim, and now, in '99 it's gonna be nothin' but fire.

12.18.98 Interview - Public Enemyís Chuck D Tells SAR About His MP3 Visions 
(from Silicon Ally Daily) 
SAR Editor and Publisher Jason McCabe Calacanis spoke candidly with Chuck D, the leader of the rap group Public Enemy, earlier this week about the group's efforts to release its latest album on the Net. 
JMC: What happened with the latest album and your record company? 

CHUCK D: We dropped four tracks and were planning on dropping two more a week [on the Net]. We were eventually going to release the whole album [on the Net]. This album was supposed to come out in March of 1998, and PolyGram for some reason didn't want to put it out. They just sat on it. We said, hey, we got this laying around so we are going to put it up. We started the supersite, and it is blowing right out of the box. 

JMC: What do you think of the technology? What is happening in the music industry? 

CHUCK D: We like the MP3. We think it's going to be the future and change everything and level out the playing field. It gives the little man a chance. The day of the demo as we know it is going to be gone. You have people with small studios across the world, [and] the majors are consolidating to five majors. Historically you had to depend on the record company and their distribution and retail outlets in order to get to the public. With that moving to the side, you know, who needs to deal with the record company or retail outlets. 

They've [the record labels] been ripping the public off for so long. Because they've pimped technology over the last ten years, the lawyers and the executives have been getting away with murder. These guys are setting themselves up with seven-figure salaries, eight-figure severance pay even when they get fired. These companies are receiving as much as 300 and 400 percent profits. The public has been ripped off and the artists haven't seen their percentage increase. It's like, who really needs you? 

JMC: What are PE's plans for the Net? 

CHUCK D: Public Enemy's got many strategies. We have a name, and we can choose many options. We can make records and give them away. We can create a super-site where people can pay less to get up in there than going to the store and spending $10 on a CD. I don't think they will have a problem buying it for $4 or $3 a CD. I think it's great. 

What this also does, is that the artist has to expand beyond being a video and audio artist. An artist will have to say, "Maybe I'll get into merchandising, maybe I do more live shows, maybe I can't depend on MTV showing my video and me selling 722,000 units." Now what is going to happen is that the marketplace will be diluted. Now you're going to see as many as 100,000 labels. Why send my fucking demo to a fucking label and depend on them picking me up when I can just put my shit out myself. 

Now you're going to see people saying, "I got my music, and with MP3 possibilities, I have my music and videos out there for people to check out and get into, and maybe even pick up for 50 cents." The financial scope for PE is to try and be active in all aspects of the art. As far as new artists are concerned, the days of the demo are gone. 

JMC: Anything else? 

CHUCK D: I'm starting an MP3 interactive label. When I have an artist cut in one of the studios that we have, that could be up the next week. That is the difference. It brings back the day of the single. Now if you make a label, you have a waiting game. The bureaucracy of traffic, red tape, manufacturing. 

If you're an independent label, you gotta scrounge up $5,000, you gotta spend it manufacturing hardware and software. Even when you get it back to your base, now you gotta mail it or ship it out. You got mailing and shipping costs. Before you even get it manufactured, you have to wait. Even if you send your 300 to 1000 pieces out, you don't know if your product is just sitting on somebody's desk. This way [on the Net], it is a fantastic testing ground cause you know [if people are tuning in]. 

That is what this MP3 thing does. The legal team and the record execs who are not privy to how this works, they're paranoid. They don't understand what the fuck is going on. They are trying to stop everything in their sight until they understand it. They can't stop it. The dam has burst. It is a great thing for artists. 

Me as an artist and me as a company, I'm looking and saying 20 to 30 percent of the marketplace might be MP3 and downloadable. The traditional means are going to have to come to grips and not expect the public to buy 722,00 CDs for $16--that's ridiculous. It ain't gonna happen. 

JMC: Will this technology make it into the hands of your fans? 

CHUCK D: I look at it in the five-year window. At one time, there weren't cellular phones or beepers in the black community. Eventually, you're going to see laptops go as low as $200. You're going to see laptops manufactured in jails, which is like slave labor. These corporations are going to find ways to get things done cheap for the public. I don't look at things as they are now, I look at things as they are to be. 

I'm reading a book called The Box by Jeff Kisseloff. It's the oral history of television. Reading the beginning of that book parallels what is going on now--1925 in radio, or 1951 in television, 1999 on the Web. You had sound, then you had sight and sound. And now you got sight, sound and interactivity. You can't beat it with a baseball bat. Why would anyone go to the store if they know they can make their own CD for $4 or for free. If someone doesn't have a computer, I see people going over to someone's house and making their own CD.

Louder Than A Bomb: Is Chuck D's Voice the Voice of Change?
(from web site) by David Saunier
So here I am in Denver, and Iíve yet to see one freakiní Rocky Mountain because the fog and cloud cover is so dense. Work is insane. Sleep is a luxury. Itís cold but I wouldnít know it because Iíve yet to step outside the hotel and see the city. 

Enter the messenger: "Chuck D is on his way, his flight will be here in a couple of hours."

The next thing I know Iím on my way to the airport in a stretch limo to pick up rap superstar, Public Enemy Number 1, the Hard-Rhymer himself, Chuck D. Aaah, the good life. 

Lucky for me, Chuck is a lot more amiable than he was on that cut from Public Enemyís multi-platinum album back in 1987. As a matter of fact, when I couldnít get my tape recorder to work, Chuck was rootiní through his luggage digginí out some AAís and, eventually, a whole new recorder ó "Naw, man. You gotta get this on tape."
I was nervous ó damn near scared, on the way to the airport to pick up Chuck D, the one man Iíve wanted to talk to more than any other since It Takes a Nation of Millions dropped ó and now I finally get my chance.

Chuck tests out the tape recorder and I smile as he booms out, "CHECK, ONE, TWO, THREE." Although he seems tired and uncharacteristically low key, any time he opens his mouth, itís like, "Oh yeah, there he is."

DAVID: So what about the community where you grew up. How did it make you what you are today?

CHUCK: Roosevelt on Long Island was a real, real tight-knit community ícause you had a lot of older people and parents looking out for younger folks . . . . In the span of two years, or three years, by í72, it was like 96 percent Black there. One-square-mile town . . . . All the White folks moved on out. Jetted out . . . . And I was kind of awe-struck by the sense of community. 

But Roosevelt didnít just produce Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour. It is home to a veritable whoís who of Black celebrity. In addition to the rest of Public Enemy, Roosevelt also spawned such talent as Eddie Murphy, Aaron Hall, and Dr. J. Chuck says it must have been ícause of the water.

CHUCK: Dr. J. is the hero of all those guys. He had a very, very powerful effect on all [of] us coming up . . . . He gave a lot of people hope. I know when I was growing up I said, "Whatever business Iím gonna be in, I hope to have that respect."

DAVID: He was the first sports person I ever remember hearing about really giving back to their community.

CHUCK: Yeah. I mean, I think he set the trend that itís not so much what a guy can do with money . . . ícause see, really one person canít donate the money that the community needs. Communities need economic planning . . . . But, you know, Dr. J. lent his time and his profile. And that in turn could get a spark ó spark some amount of interest.

I remember in 1976 or í77 . . . the Roosevelt High School sports team had no equipment . . . . He donated the proceeds from the playoffs, from the Knicks. Thatís something thatís unheard of today. You wonít see Scottie Pippen [doing that].

Why do I care about the community where Chuck grew up? Being the product of a utopian planned community, I find it interesting how peopleís communities shape who they are. In Chuckís case, it seems obvious. Growing up in an all-Black community had taught Chuck to take great pride in his people. 

When I was growing up, interracial couples were common, and everyone went to public schools. It wasnít until I moved to New York in í89 that racial divisions smacked me in the face. All of a sudden, Chuckís biting lyrics made a lot more sense. 

In an era where gold chain-wearing reached chiropractic proportions and rappers were furiously inventing new ways to boast about themselves, Chuck D and Public Enemy flaunted Afrocentric medallions and socially important lyrics.

In his 1997 book, Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality, Chuck writes: "I didnít want to rap about ĎIím this or Iím thatí all the time . . . . My focus was not on boasting about myself or battling brothers on the microphone. I wanted to rap about battling institutions, and bringing the condition of Black people worldwide to a respectable level."

Hip-hop is a liquid art form. It changes shape quicker than you can grasp it. Whatever you think will be the bomb will probably fail and whoever you think will never make it past basement parties and demo tapes will probably blow up. The slang I used in that last sentence ("the bomb" and "blow up") will probably sound as passé as "fresh" and "dope" by the time you read this. To stay in the hip-hop world for 20 years, as Chuck D has, is no small feat. The 38-year-old Chuck D has seen it all, and he has pushed hip-hop in many new directions. His voice has become synonymous with not only Public Enemy but the many different hip-hop, and even house and techno songs, that sample it. Yet it was his eyes, not his voice, that got Chuck D involved with the hip-hop recording world.

CHUCK: I went to school as a graphic design major. When the first rap record came out, Sugar Hill, in October of 1979, it struck a bell in my brain. I said, "Well, with a record out, thereís a recording industry. With a recording industry, theyíre going to need graphics. 

It wasnít long, though, before Chuck got his hands on a microphone. At the time, hip-hop music was still under development. Chuck D and Public Enemy changed the face of hip-hop when they broke onto the scene, expanding hip-hop past party music. This was no "throw-your-hands-in-the-air, letís-everybody-dance-and-have-fun music." The movement had begun. Check it:

DAVID: Back when you were starting to blow up, you and Boogie Down Productions were looked at as the leaders of the "positive movement" in hip-hop, and it really became the trend. It was almost like a fad. Do you think thatís a good thing, given the nature of fads?

CHUCK: Number one, and Iím pretty sure Kris [Kris Parker, a.k.a. KRS-ONE, leader of the rap group Boogie Down Productions] feels the same, we set out to make this a trend, and make it hip. And you know that the down side is that it cycles out into something "out." But for the people who pick it up, and learn about themselves, it will always be with them. You canít revert to going back to stupid. You know that. You get smart and it sticks with you. So yeah, that movement, understand, it was meant to be a seed that sprouted a tree.

DAVID: Do you think youíre unique in hip-hop, wanting to take a lot of concern and common sense into what youíre saying?

CHUCK: Yeah. Yeah, thatís unique. Unique, I have a 12-year recording career. Itís unique that Iíve been in rap and hip-hop for 20 years. And itís unique that I have a concern for what I put down because I believe words can resonate. I believe words can spark action.

His fame is from hip-hop. His persona is from hip-hop. But his rib-shaking, brain-cramping commentary is oozing into every crevice of mass-media. Chuck knows that as far as Public Enemy has taken him, it has its limits. Until I pop Fear of a Black Planet into momís CD player, sheíll never hear it. Even then, Hank and Keith Shocklee's noisy production will probably get in the way. So Chuck lectures. And Chuck writes. He even popped up on News Radio last fall.
DAVID: Was there a push to write a book as opposed to writing songs?

CHUCK: Yeah. [The book is] my biggest accomplishment. Thatís very important, cause, you know, you can freeze time with your written word. You can freeze the moment and sometimes when youíre writing poetry or some songs, youíre chained to the rhythm . . . .You know, with writing a book, you go to your own rhythm. Youíre kind of free-flowing with an opinion. Whether itís right or wrong, agreeable, whatever, you know you got your own flow.

In the fore of hip-hop for almost 20 years, heís been on tour all over the world with bands as diverse as LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and U2. Heís got multi-platinum albums, heís written a movie soundtrack, he lectures at the most prestigious schools around the country ó and he calls his book his biggest accomplishment.

I guess it just shows that, like the title of Public Enemyís 1994 release, Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age, suggests, the message is king. Therefore, the medium becomes less important. Chuckís inclusion in mainstream media gives credence to his powerful point of view that screams angry Black male. Chuck says rap music "was actually shouting and yelling in defiance and it was scary to a lot of folks in the beginning." But as empowering as it was, that scary overtone created a limited audience. 

Chuck captured that audience. But now he is seizing a whole lot more. Heís gone from yelling into a mic at some house party in Queens to relating his view on "Must-See TV." Now that heís cavorted with Phil Hartman does that mean his message is any less raucous than when heís hanging with Ice Cube and the Lynch Mob? I donít think so. Nor do I think Chuckís point of view should be considered very scary. Itís loud. Itís angry. But at the same time, heís dealing with concepts that I hope our children are learning in kindergarten.

CHUCK: Negativity, you know, is very easy to spread. Positivity is rowing upstream where you want the end result to be peace, love and harmony for all coexisting species on the planet as well as your fellow man and woman. And thatís the ultimate goal . . . . The concept of race is silly and stupid. I mean, the fact that people judge on their individual characteristics is a wicked, White supremacy plan that is spread all over the world. And it is so saturated in the West that a lot of people just canít get [out] from underneath those concepts.

Music, books, TV and movies. What lies ahead for the "Rhyme Animal"? Chuck was espousing the benefits of the Internet before I could even tell him I was a Web designer. His book may be his biggest accomplishment but, lately, the Internet is his biggest interest. Chuck couldnít stop talking about the Public Enemy "Super Site" at He feels that rap music, a genre where lyrics come fast and furious, and the Internet are perfect for each other. But more than just for the marketing of his music, the Internet is yet another way for Chuck to get the word out. 

Chuck has been able to use his role as a rapper/activist/author to get his voice out to the public. But unlike the music and TV, the Internet allows the audience to get involved. (Chuck demonstrates the mind-numbing effects the TV has on him by blindly flipping the channels on the hotel room set.)

CHUCK: I got stacks of notes that really should be thrown out from the years . . . . But now I do something positive with them . . . . And itís pretty good that you have people that would want to, you know, check it out and comment and dig it or not dig it, you know.

DAVID: Is that important for you, having people on the Internet get the chance to really start that discussion about what youíre putting up there?

CHUCK: Itís the most important vehicle for me ever because what weíre gonna be heading into is a time where the computer or the PC, or whatever it is, lets you get a chance to step into that world and dictate. You canít get more powerful than that.

Chuck D Chat on AOL 
Welcome, Chuck D! Thank you so much for joining us for this AOL chat. It is very nice to have you with us. 

RTJohnB: Hi folks, welcome to our live chat with Chuck D of Public Enemy. Let's get started. 

AOLiveMC1: Here's our first audience question: Will u ever do a tour with anthrax or something like that ever again? That was a really cool concert. 

ChuckDLive: Peace Everyone. I'm Chuck D from Public Enemy. Thanks for having me. Right now it is yet to be determined. The sky is the limit. 

Question: Did you ever think you would become a rapper? 

ChuckDLive: No, because when I was in High School, there was no such thing a Rap. 


ChuckDLive: It was Nine years ago in fact. I think we all learned more about each other. I think he learned allot about it then and vice versa. 

Question: Did you have a hard life growing up? 

ChuckDLive: No. I was lucky. 

Question: Do you for-see a tour at all or a reunion tour of the old public enemy? 

ChuckDLive: Before I answer that I want to add that to me a hard life is one that is that of the people in 3rd world countries. There may be a reunion in the near future. It depends on many things. 

Question: Chuck~do you think people will ever be able to work out their differences without violence and threats? Isn't there some way to get to know each other without killing each other?

ChuckDLive: Of course we just have to get started. The next century holds the promise. 

Question: What other artists have you become really close to during your career so far? 

ChuckDLive: Ice T, Ice Q, KRS1. Collective guys like Kam. Rampage, Plus many others. 

Question: What do you do in your spare time to increase your knowledge, intelligence and understanding of the world around you? 

ChuckDLive: The Internet is nice. Basically I keep my eyes open and my mouth shut. 

Question: Chuck, why don't most rap stars go on the high school circuit, I live in Alabama and these kids are buying all of the music, but they need motivation from the rap stars, come to the south and give some motivational speeches. 

ChuckDLive: I live in the South and always give motivational speeches. In fact I am presently trying to put together an organization that gives motivational tours. 

Question: How would you rate your "He Got Game" album compared to your other hot albums, where were you put it? 

ChuckDLive: I would give it an 8. Given the short amount of time we had to make it. 

RTJohnB: What did you think of tricky's cover of "Black Steel"? 

ChuckDLive: I thought it was cool. Trip hop on drum and base pushed the level of hip hop. 

Question: Okay, so Chuck, when is the new full length album coming? 

ChuckDLive: Possibly October. It is one of 3 albums this year. A catalogue album is due in August. "There Is A Poisin Goin On" is also coming. 

Question: PE's lyrics have attacked sexism. Is it a problem in hip hop today? 

ChuckDLive: Yes, because it is a problem in society. Yes, We have been guilty of it sometimes. 

Question: What do you think about the movie "He Got Game"? 

ChuckDLive: It is sharp, witty, and has a deep meaning to it. Denzel is Denzel! How could you go wrong. 

Question: In retrospect, do you regret kicking Griff out of the group? Do you think you handled it properly? 

ChuckDLive: I think I handled it properly at the time. On the other hand I will always have regrets. Being a leader, sometimes you have to make sharp decisions for the whole. 

Question: Would you ever consider working with the Beastie Boys or a Tribe Called Quest on a project? 

ChuckDLive: No doubt. Two of my favorites of all times. 

Question: Question for ChuCk D: What do you think of hip hop now as opposed to when you first started? 

ChuckDLive: I think talent wise it has never been better. I think artists in order to protect their contracts. Don't take as many risky and daring challenges. That had compelled hip hop at it's best. 

Question: What do you think of the whole East Vs West rap war? 

ChuckDLive: A fallacy. There is no such thing. Don't believe the hype. 

Question: I like yo book, "Fight the Power", is there any upcoming books? 

ChuckDLive: Yes, I am writing one right now. "Anatomy of a Black Circus Within." Will probably come out in 1999. 

RTJohnB: Can you tell us what that's about? 

ChuckDLive: It's a day to day diary. 

Question: Do you think the youth of today "feel" your music like we did back in the late 80s/early 90s? 

ChuckDLive: It is a different generation. It would take a big introduction to today's teenagers. I think Public Enemy has an older audience that newer groups get to. 

Question: Have you planned on doing any more projects with any other industrial bands such as "Front Line Assembly"? 

ChuckDLive: The sky is the limit as far as where we will go from here. We will have to see what is offered to us. 

Question: I recently met Jello Biafra, the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys turned political activist. I noticed that PE thanks him in one of your albums, Do you stay in contact with him at all? 

ChuckDLive: Occasionally we run across each other. He is good people. 

Question: Do you have any opinions on Flava's troubles? Is it hype, or are the problems serious? 

ChuckDLive: It is a combination of both of them? We try to do the best to make Flava's situation as easy to handle as possible. 

Question: How did Public Enemy do the soundtrack for He got Game when there is only one song in the movie?? Is the sound track full of new PE music? :) 

ChuckDLive: Yes, the sound track has 13 songs. We have 7 of them of it. The rest is classical score by Aaron Coupland. 

Question: Chuck D, What is most important? The message or the music. Are they both the same? 

ChuckDLive: They are both the same. 

Question: Do u think of yourself as a rolemodel? 

ChuckDLive: Yes, because I am in front of the camera. Kids should pick up something good, because it could help them. 

Question: In working on the soundtrack, especially the title cut, did Spike Lee come to you guys and ask for some tracks? or have you guys been working on stuff for awhile? 

ChuckDLive: In this case Spike came to us. We made an album from scratch. 

RTJohnB: Where'd you get the idea for the buffalo springfield sample? and how did you get Stephen stills involved? 

ChuckDLive: It was a combination of Spike, myself, Hank and the film company to try to flip it into something. We called Stephen up and asked him. 

AOLiveMC1: Chuck D, do you have a website where people might find out your performance schedule? 

ChuckDLive: Yes, what inspired to you to start 

ChuckDLive: The need to corral hip hop information for future streaming possibilities. It is going up in June for sure. 

Question: What do you think is necessary of all rappers? what requirements and experience? 

ChuckDLive: Music, objective, visual identity and entertaining qualities. The knowledge of the past present and future artists. 

RTJohnB: Do you think rappers should always have something to say? 

ChuckDLive: Yes, no matter what it is. 

Question: hi, who is your favorite poet? 

ChuckDLive: My favorite poet would be The Last Poets. the old has society race-wise advanced in the past decade? I think the relationships have gotten better. Older people should take note. 

Question: Chuck, what was the reason for the original PE breakup, and what led to the reunion? 

ChuckDLive: We didn't break up. People get older and move around. And logistically it takes time to put together things of great magnitude. 

Question: What do you feel is your best album ever? I don't feel "Fear of a Black Planet" gets the respect it deserves. I always thought of it as the "Sergeant Pepper" of Rap 

ChuckDLive: It is hard to pick a favorite. Comparing albums is like comparing children. 

ChuckDLive: I like them all the same. 

Question: Hey chuck, jungle, otherwise known as drum and bass. your voice is heavily sampled in it. Music. underground still has a hold on you. what do u think? 

ChuckDLive: I like it. 

Question: Chuck how do you feel about gangata rappers? 

ChuckDLive: I think people confuse the term Sadler? and why? gangerster rap which is the west coast form of rap and west coast rap has always been all right. They just confuse the two. 

Question: Hi! I met you at the Amnesty International Spotlight Awards, are you involved with anything for amnesty at the moment, are you still active in that area? 

ChuckDLive: Yes I am still involved. I wish I could have been involved with their latest commercial because I believe in it. 

Question: What other hobbies do u have other then singing? 

ChuckDLive: Driving, writing, and sleep is a good hobby too. 

Question: Yo, Chuck from your lyrics, its sounds like you are well read. What are some of your favorite books? 

ChuckDLive: "Death Of Rhythm and Blues" and " The Last Dictator " are two of my favorite books. 

Question: Is PE going to stay around and try to re-influence everyone into positive rap again? 

ChuckDLive: I think that is beyond our capabilities. Life itself should navigate people's minds into making decisions over right or wrong. 

Question: Chuck will you be participating in the Tibetan freedom festival again this year? 

ChuckDLive: Individually yes, and as far as Public Enemy performance, depends on how things are going. It has been a pleasure once again to talk with all of you here online. 

RTJohnB: Thanks, Chuck, for stopping by tonight. ChuckDLive: I appreciate all the wonderful people and questions. Thanks and stay tuned for the future and remember to check out and coming soon. Thanks everyone. 


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