Public Enemy's Chuck D: Yeah, I voted in the 2012 election
|Photo by David Wong|
|L-R Atiba Motta, David Reeves, Flavor Flav, S1W Pop Diesel, DJ Lord, Chuck D, S1W James Bomb, Professor Griff, Khari Wynn, S1W Mike Williams|
Now, his task is raising up the community around him with the Hip Hop Gods tour featuring luminaries X-Clan, Monie Love, Schoolly D, Leaders of the New School, and more. The show is a continuous explosion of "classic hip-hop" that focuses on the performance art aspect above all.
Gimme Noise reached Chuck D in Indianapolis ("the other 'apolis" city, he says) ahead of tonight's First Avenue show to discuss Rhymesayers, PE's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination, and Brother Ali, who he calls "my dude."
Update: Public Enemy joins Donna Summer, Heart, Randy Newman, Rush, Albert King, Lou Adler, and Quincy Jones in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2013!
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Gimme Noise: What's at the center of your friendship with Brother Ali?
The core is the bond is the humanity of hip-hop and just being humble. Slug introduced me to him when we were doing a panel in Minneapolis, and from that point on, we continued our relationship. We be wherever we can be to be in service to him, to help his scene and everything that he deserves.
What do you guys like to talk about?
We talk about life. Sure, we're artists, but the core of this, we're human beings. I'm an older brother who can actually give some advice, and a cat who can learn from a great artist like him about the way he sees the world and things like that. We're human beings first, and this is what we do. A lot of times when people look at athletes in sports, they have it understood. When it comes down to music, especially hip-hop, because people look at us as being some sort of abnormality [laughs].
What do you think about the structure Ali has worked within at Rhymesayers?
I've always enjoyed they way Rhymesayers has treated hip-hop. They treat it like it's a craft, not a hustle. They see the shoddiness of the industry and how it's treated the middle of the country. People talked about the tour market going down in hip-hop, and shows turning into radio behemoths that charge $135, it totally became something else. Building from the ground up is the only way to go.
Yeah, and in that touring model the Twin Cities often gets skipped over for hip-hop tours.
'Cause you do. Most places get skipped over. When you're talking about gigantic situations, they can only end up going to five or six cities anyway. New York, L.A., maybe the Bay, Chicago, possibly Atlanta. That's not touring. Those are just festivals. Rock the Bells is a festival. They can't support a $150 ticket in parts that have really been torn apart by the American recession. These artists are corporate situations. At the end of the day, you say "Is this hip-hop?" Rhymesayers takes those "other" markets. We're going to enter a couple of those markets on this tour.
The Hip Hop Gods tour is a prototype. This is the first time we've been to Lincoln, Nebraska, and Jackson, Wyoming. So we're making this a showcase to a city that never thought they'd see these artists ever.
You dropped two new albums this year (available via SpitDigital) so how can you balance getting that out to people with the old stuff some cities have never heard before when you perform?
Region and territory will dictate that. It's no different from the Rolling Stones. If I'm going to see them, I totally wanna hear "Satisfaction." I want to hear the body of work over two hours. Even if we get one hour, we're going to give people good representation, energy, and effort.
My favorite part of the Hip Hop Gods is everyone playing together and doing what they feel. The theme of Hip Hop Gods is not looking at artists just for what they did before, but these artists are cutting records now. They're touring the world now. We make sure we get out each one of their social networks. I made initial calls to these artists and they all agreed. If you look around, you can't find any other hip-hop tour that goes East to West, North to South. Usually, there's a big hole in the middle of the country
The U.S. still faces plenty of the problems it did when Public Enemy got started. Does this get frustrating at times?
In politics, 25 years is a short amount of time. In music, they're dog years. They're long and they're stretched out. Many people have not changed a bit. Pretty much, it's been a flat line. It doesn't get frustrating, because this is a job I have to do. Hip-hop is my military, and when you're in service, it's your job not to get frustrated.
Have you ever performed for the military?
Not specifically, but many military members have shown up at our concerts.