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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 10:23 pm | Fair 52º


Jeff Moehlis: Chuck D Raps About Public Enemy and Upcoming Ventura Performance

Band founder and lead rapper to lead concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Majestic Ventura Theater

Chuck D is one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop music. He is the founder and lead rapper for the hugely influential (and controversial) band Public Enemy, which created a powerful mix of politically charged lyrics and layered, aggressive sounds.

Their second album, 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and is considered to be hugely important for making rap music popular with white audiences. Other notable Public Enemy albums include Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91 ... The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), and How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul??? (2007).

Public Enemy will be performing at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St. in Ventura. He recently answered the following questions by email.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming Public Enemy concert in Ventura?

Chuck D: We’re like the Rolling Stones of the rap game. We present an experience in sight and sound — an event that takes people’s limited understanding of hip hop into the realm of music. Our 80th tour will be realized this year.

Chuck D, shown here at 2011's Sunset Strip Music Festival, and the rest of Public Enemy will perform at the Majestic Ventura Theater on Saturday night.
Chuck D, shown here at 2011’s Sunset Strip Music Festival, and the rest of Public Enemy will perform at the Majestic Ventura Theater on Saturday night. (L. Paul Mann photo)

JM: I always enjoy reading your perspectives on hip hop, both of today and of yesteryear. A few weeks ago in The New York Times, the cultural critic Touré said that “Hip hop is primarily a celebration of black masculinity.” How would you respond to that description?

CD: Well, it was a penetration of black masculinity under its own terms in the early 1980s when that image was constantly repressed by America. Hip hop and rap shouted back and bragged about self like few other forms did vocally.

JM: Public Enemy is/was more political than most of today’s hip hop, using confrontational lyrics to highlight social and political injustices. Is confrontation the best way to elicit change?

CD: You should always support your stance and beliefs as strong as possible. The defense of a people and culture is more necessary than ever.

JM: In addition to great lyrics, Public Enemy developed an innovative sound. Could you reflect on the contributions to the early Public Enemy recordings by Hank Shocklee and Eric Sadler?

CD: Hank, Eric, Keith, Bill Stephney, Terminator X, Johnny Juice, Flavor (Flav), (Professor) Griff and myself were raised through the existence of music in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It all came out while creating. Hank was a master of records. Within those recordings were the sounds and musicians that we also had to recognize.

JM: An early supporter of Public Enemy was Rick Rubin. How did he influence or contribute to the band’s music and career?

CD: Rick was always bold and daring and adventurous. He knew that we were the one act he could leave alone to take it further than even he imagined. That’s bold in itself to create the sphere for bold endless creativity.

JM: You did a few “crossovers” — “Kool Thing” with Sonic Youth, and “Bring Tha Noize” with Anthrax. How did these come about?

CD: All upon the insistence of the the other act. Sonic Youth, we shared studios with in Lower Manhattan and it came about over ordering food and conversation. Anthrax came because Scott Ian wearing our T-shirt in a giant rock fest in front of 50,000. Photo in MelodyMaker made me name check them in “Bring Tha Noize.” Which in turn Scott Ian and Charlie Benante spearheaded the thrash cover four years later. I just followed through.

JM: Flavor Flav has taken a different road in life from you. How has this affected Public Enemy?

CD: Flav has always been different. PE is not a duo, it is a group. We have various individuals on different paths. Our original commonality is that we all came from Black Long Island. Flavor has always been different. As with PE it reflected how us black men were varied as opposed to the stereotype.

JM: Your SLAMjamz record label is described as “the 21st-century record label.” How so? And how does SLAMjamz compare to, say, Def Jam in its heyday?

CD: Its digital releases set to deliver on tech devices rather than a physical form. Def Jam is in the same ranks of Sun, Motown, Rough Trade, Sub Pop, Atlantic. Lovers of music that had to fight for the right to record and release. There is no comparison although I would like SLAMjamz to follow what hip hop labels Stones Throw, Rhymesayers, Duck Down are doing. We also dig Daptone’s direction.

JM: Public Enemy will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. What is your perspective on this (likely) honor?

CD: I grew up as a sports fan. I believe in the preservation of historical archiving. Worked with the museum for years. I’m not thinking about it now but our last 12 years have been as groundbreaking and exciting as the first 13.

JM: If you had the ear of the U.S. population for two minutes, what would you say?

CD: The cheapest price to pay right here right now is attention. Fight for your world rights to be a citizen of the planet. And culture can bring humans truly together when at its best, something government should take notice to. Be on top of technology; dont have it be on top of you ...

JM: Since your wife is a professor at UCSB, do you spend much time in Santa Barbara?

CD: Yes.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight about anything from your career, music or life?

CD: Simply our music travels, opinions in our genre are as compelling as with Dylan, Beatles, Stones etc. Black music is usually treated less. Life is to be sipped like fine wine not guzzled down like a 40 oz.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

CD: We build our sites to provide infrastructure to our genre of hip hop and rap music.

» www.hiphopgods.com for classic rap acts

» www.SHEmovement.com for women in hip hop

» www.RAPstation.com an audio visual internetwork that hosts worldwide shows

You get the idea all spawning from our first built in 1998, www.publicenemy.com, the longest running site in hip hop.

Give all my email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?


» Truly do what you do from your training and belief.

» Try not to ask other people for opinions of your art.

» Give music away like an advertisement for your performance as an act.

» Make a video for 33 percent of your music. We live in a visual audio age, not audio visual.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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