Public Enemy’s Chuck D on Music, Politics and Inducting the Beastie Boys Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Public Enemy are celebrating their 25th anniversary and will be releasing two new studio albums later this year. The iconic hip-hop group have already embarked on an extensive world tour hitting Australia, the U.S. and Europe. The outfit’s frontman Chuck D, who founded and runs; a digital record label (, a social website for classic rap and hip-hop (, and a social platform for female rap artists ( Our Hugh Bohane spoke with Chuck D over the phone about a host of subjects prior to Public Enemy’s tour of Australia.

Hello Chuck?

Is this a good time?
Chuck D: Not really, but it’s the time. I am going to have to be multi-tasking while we do this. [Chuck D is pounding away at his computer, in less than ten days he will fly out to Australia on a tour with Public Enemy.]

Congratulations on an amazing career. What have been some of the best memories of your 25 something years in the game with Public Enemy?

To be able to have traveled the world and to have people come up to you and say “thanks.”

Why does it seem that there are now so few intellectually/socially/politically conscious rappers in the industry today?
There are many. Arrested Development and Heet Mob are just two, to name a few.

You are very outspoken about the unfair imbalance of female representation in hip-hop, who are some female rappers inspiring you at the moment?
That and the disappearing of groups, that’s also, hurt hip-hop a lot. Michie Mee, the female rapper from Canada. Check her out.

You have also cited M.I.A. as a female rapper who inspires you?
She is also very cool.

Many people in Australia have been angrily demonstrating against police brutality after two Aboriginal youths were recently shot in a stolen car by N.S.W. police. Is police brutality in the U.S. still a problem in your opinion?

The problem [in the U.S.] is that people are policing in areas that they don’t belong in.

How effective is the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) today?

They have been trying to enlist good people. You know, an organization is only as good as the people in it.

What are your thoughts on Obama’s administration thus far?
Obama is a good driver in a bad car.

What did you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement last year?

I think people need to follow-up on that and pay attention.

What are your thoughts on Julian Assange?
He reminds me of Sean Fanning from Napster but this guy [Assange] is doing it right now, right here in the real world. I gotta admire him for that.

Can you tell us about your work as a board member on the TransAfrica Forum (a forum that works for the right of Africa, Caribbean and Latin American issues) and the issues you are working around?

I want to do more with it. I just haven’t been able to be as active with it as I would like to be.

What are some solutions for Africa moving into the future
Africa can’t consolidate without Europeans fucking with it. When all those European countries when in to break up Africa… Africa is still recovering from that.

Tell us about the two new studio albums Public Enemy are releasing this year?
These two albums are statements about how we can now make art without constriction, compared with 15 years ago. These two albums talk to each other. Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp will be released in June and Evil Empire of Everything will be released in September. These albums will emerge off our own area label of distribution, called SpitDIGITAL.

How was it inducting the Beastie Boys into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently?
It was incredible; they transcended and took things to the next level. I admire them for that.

How were your recent tours?
The tours were great. In 10 days we will be going down to your homeland, Australia. That’s going to be a situation. Come down and see the shows. We are also going to be touring the US and Europe later in the year.

How are Flavor Flav and the rest of the crew doing?
They’re all doing great.

What advice would you give to young artists starting out?

Try to create your own company and learn the history. Try to learn the guidelines of what you should and shouldn’t do in the industry.

Special thanks to Chuck D and his management for making this interview happen.

Live review: Sasquatch! offers rain, heat, and tunes for the dedicated only

MIA @ Sasquatch 2008

Originally uploaded by flooing

Talk to anyone who has attended any major music festival, and they’ll agree that it takes a certain state of mind to enjoy. Never mind the process of manipulating your monthly budget for tickets and camping spots; campers at this year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival this past weekend in The Gorge in the middle of Washington state endured overcrowded campsites, severe weather changes, and the inappropriately, someone misleadingly named Honey Buckets (the less said about those the better). But for anyone who saw at least one performance at this year’s show, their restitution lies in the music.

The rain began to fall as M.I.A. commanded the main stage on Saturday evening, her bazaar of beats entrancing a crowd of damp onlookers as her performance peaked when she invited all moshers to the stage for the last three songs. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe embraced the weather, choosing to perform barefoot as to avoid slipping on stage. “If I fall, I want you all to say ‘I told you so,’” he announced. He didn’t fall, but it certainly kept the audience’s attention rapt at the end of the first day.

Sunday afternoon saw the first rays of sunshine, just in time for the Cold War Kid’s appropriately titled “Hang Me Up to Dry.” By nightfall, The Cure was rocking a dry gorge as Porl Thompson’s brooding guitar riffs and Robert Smith’s powerful voice echoed throughout the Gorge; an emotional moment for any conscious rocker.

Clear skies and dry heats greeted Monday’s fans. The Hives gave what they called an “effort of 60 percent” under the mid-day sun. “If we were to give you 100 percent, this gorge would collapse and we would all die,” screamed typically arrogant frontman Pelle Almqvist. Although they later claimed to give 92 percent, no performance that day could touch the Flaming Lips’ U.F.O.-themed finale. From Wayne Coyne’s entrance on a space ship, to the dancing Teletubbies, and what appeared to be half the world’s confetti supply were among a few of the marvels that Sasquatch’s closing act had to offer.

Main stage underdog spoils go to Blue Scholars’ “true hip-hop” set, and Rodrigo y Gabriela for bringing a taste of Mexico to the weekend. On the Wookie! stage (each stage is named for a beastly creature, fyi), highlights came from the Kooks for bringing a splash of BritPop to Day Two, and experimental math rockers Battles, whose deafening set managed to drown out the nearby main stage.

Sasquatch! is not a festival for the faint of heart. Unlike the others this summer, you really had to earn the right to get dirty and hear some good tunes, and while many were swearing to themselves at least once during the weekend, “never again,” that’s all forgotten now as the musical memories remain just as the mud washes off your sneakers.

David Bell