How Chuck D Defended Rap’s Artistic Legacy on ‘Fight the Power’


Chuck D. one of hip hop’s former statesmen, the genre wasn’t old enough to have them: he was born in 1960, witnessed his birth in the boroughs of New York in 1973, released his first album as a founding member of the band that set fire. public enemy At the age of 27, he presided over its evolution in rap with a perspective and wisdom that few, before or since, share. His intuition and attitudes both shaped hip hop on wax and commented on it in popular culture, and undermined the legitimacy of an art form run by people of color, even if it was commercially promoted, even favored by mainstream, predominantly white consumers.

Its impact and importance, “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the WorldA four-part documentary he developed and executive produced for PBS, named after one of Public Enemy’s biggest and most influential hits. On June 21, Chuck D attended a panel in Los Angeles with President Gil Vazquez to discuss the making of the documentary. Keith Haring Basis; jean michel basquiathis sister Lisane, who appears on behalf of the King Pleasure exhibition at the Broad Museum; and “Fight the Power” co-producer Lorrie Boula. Before the panel, he spoke to Variety about the four pillars of hip hop for 50 years – DJing, presenting, break dance and graffiti – and the changing tastes and techniques that artists use to create (and show) work. and the advantages for him of aging in a kind that youth constantly supports.

To start, can you talk about the importance of being a part of the PBS series “Fight the Power” and telling the hip hop story your way?

full circle. In other words, I lived a 62-year existence filled with art, music, life and culture. This is how I was brought up. I come from a family in the middle of New York, which is a cultural melting pot. [general practice]. So from day zero I was really an artist and I was encouraged to be, and then the music bit me. But I came back, went to college, did all the essentials, and still, in a way, did it from the streets.

You have always been an academic while evaluating the role of this art in culture. I remember you calling hip hop the “CNN” of this community.

You missed the incredible, crashing period of the fifties and most importantly the sixties. I missed the fifties but I was there as a kid all through the sixties. And you had the art, the culture, the challenge, the questions, the unanswered, the technology webs. All of this got to a point where it collided culturally, socio-politically, musically in the sixties, and from there it disintegrated. And I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and the right person. And believe me, the right place was New York for a period of at least 25 years. The first 25 years of my life.

You talk about all the cultural influences that led to hip hop. But when we start talking about hip hop as an art history, would it be easier to create that narrative backbone for a documentary series like this one?

I think so, because I never grew up admiring him. I was 13 years older than him and knew exactly where he was coming from. The DJing, hosting, break dance and graffiti elements of hip hop come from elements that are already very contagious, transferable even when we don’t have a voice as a people. And what was DJing simply? musicianship was MCing voiceover. Graffiti was the expression of art. And B-Boy was dancing. So the art, the dance, the vocals, the music, the things that really made up for the long lack of political social voice we have as black people. And it was very loud – we are very loud in all these ways. So loud in our music, so loud in our vocals, so loud in our dance, so high in our artistic expression. And that has pretty much become the model and context for a society that seeks answers while asking many questions to its people.

Is there a way for this PBS series and conversations like it to separate the hip hop story from other documentaries and series made about these four elements?

I’ve always objected to the fact that hip hop would be a childish, teenage low-art thing. I always thought it was as high art as anything, long before its time. Why should I wait for a critical body to accept whether art is high or low? The reason I objected was because I went to university, studied everybody, so I understood not only the Caravaggios but also the Basquiats in the street. And I think these combinations should be able to reach an art-hungry audience who knows that art stands for “artificial”. A replica of life expressed through many different things.

Why do you think there is now a renaissance in storytelling about hip hop, especially documentaries about individual artists?

Today, people listen with their eyes, and sight, sound, story and style all go together. So people will come out with podcasts, they will come out with documentaries. Books are still very important as they freeze knowledge and word in your time. And whether you put it on your iPad or carry a book with you, you can keep it and stock it. This is really important. The printed word is something you relax and enjoy the information inside you. Not at the speed of someone else or anything else. The resulting documentaries are, in my opinion, great seeds. If you’re working with a clock, it’s not really an hour, it’s 60 minutes of data per minute times 60 seconds. And it helps, but you always need curators, people who can tell you how best to absorb it and make it work for everyone.

What do you think was the barometer of hip hop being taken seriously as an art form?

Well a body Works. A set of exercises always helps when you can have the variety and the extremes and at the same time understand wow like it’s all hip hop. I think it’s nice when you have a way and a way that is formed due to the volume of work bodies. For years I’ve developed the Public Enemy almost like a well-oiled Lamborghini machine, but you can’t run it in the swamp. And then he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because he was able to jump another highway with people like Rage Against the Machine, Anthrax and Sonic Youth and that. But in its field, it’s crucial that we find a solid ground on which our vehicles can travel, while also enabling people to ride as artistic passengers.

Are there any artists or people in the industry right now who share the activist instinct of your day? Or have we succumbed to an era of mega-aspirational wealth that outshines any element of social consciousness or insight?

As Quincy Jones said, “When money talks, God leaves the room.” I think this craft has a certain strength, which means that balance should always be in demand. And there are many artists… RapStation, I’ve been doing it for 14 years, and we have a network of 11 channels where people can engage in hip hop with more variety than they can find anywhere else. But you want to do it naturally without thinking that you have to lead the horse to drink into the water. It is subjective because it is art. You don’t want to go down people’s throats but at the same time you can inform people about it and say it’s a great alternative to their time and day.

Musically or artistically, can you think off the top of your head of artists you feel are pushing forward the torch that Public Enemy created in the nineties?

Public Enemy is a band, so it’s very difficult to copy Public Enemy because we had different dynamics and dimensions from Bomb Squad to Flavor. [Flav] with [Professor] From Griff to Terminator X, then DJ Lord, Davy DMX and me. So when you say, “There might be something like Public Enemy,” nothing can provide such diverse dynamics. However, I would say that the walk of independent artistry and doing it your way is due to the fact that the industry is divided into soloists. The newly resounding latest collective, if not disbanded with Takeoff and Migos, unfortunately fell apart. But everything after the Millennium was “let’s sign a deal with this soloist and talk to the lead singer about their life as if he were Jack Kerouac”. I think when you start talking about a group, you have an unpredictable dynamic that really comes out of alchemy. But the independent mood is what is reflected in one aspect of what Public Enemy does. And even socially, social change may not come from a rapper as much as it does from a YouTube creator.

Does getting older make it easier for you to absorb the industry or the way you watch this art form change?

Certainly. Getting older makes everything easier. Because you can always say to a young head, “I was there and you are not where I am”. Getting old is the greatest thing ever. The thing is, people haven’t figured out how to take care of themselves. You used to say, “Oh man, I have a rock and roll lifestyle.” Good luck with that. Because everything about life is something you have to dance with. You cannot handle your own life.

You have a very peaceful stance on hip hop today.

If you want to see a peaceful attitude, talk to me about artificial intelligence. This is what makes everyone angry. AI for me is a dance.

What allows you to maintain a sense of optimism, or at least peace of mind, as part of a generation that has not been able to adapt to this art form, especially as a listener who can’t keep up with the times?

What always keeps me energized is the timeline of the art. There is more behind us than in front of us. When I’m working something from the 1600s – as right now, Edward Hopper’s work scares me – when you’re really interested, then you start piling up and you’re not just looking at artists’ work, you’re also working and living the artist’s life, which kind of takes us back to museums . But discovery is what keeps me going. Discovery, man, sparks, bro. And social media curses, but technology has uses [allows things that] It was impossible to reach before. I could go to YouTube and watch a documentary about the artist that I had never heard of from the 1800s. We can access it on our phone and say, “Wow, that’s kind of cool.” But I’m also old enough to realize that it’s drugs. When you’re young you wait for something to hit you. I know what to buy, I can’t get everything on time. This is the difference. As you got older and it came to hip hop, I’ve always been that old person. However, unlike shooting from left field, reconnaissance comes into play when you know what to look for. You get a little cranky from this and you’ll get dizzy.

Is there an artist you’ve discovered recently that excites you?

I am fascinated by artificial intelligence and Chat GPT. But what is the most important thing you should keep in art? Hide your mistakes. Everything in AI is about making it perfect. So when you talk about art, it’s about how you can get away from something trying to be perfect and dance with it to come up with another combination. Our mistakes in art are all we got, man. Our style is our pulse. The long answer to this stupid question is that there is always a piece of art that will turn me on. So, I’ve curated hip hop records every week on “And You Don’t Stop” for 14 years in a row, and I’ve always been amazed. I could name a hundred names from Skyzoo to the Crew Grrl Order in Charlotte. Now, the good thing is that I know I’m not, which is the hardest thing to explain to a teenager. Find out who you are, but also try to understand what you are not. It will keep you from fluttering.

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