Many may dismiss Chuck D as that old guy whose just ranting and raving over nothing. They’ll say that he’s just ‘hating’ on the dime a dozen ringtone rappers because they are making a mint spouting absolute foolishness….and that he’s just mad because he didn’t think of it first—nor was he able to capitalize on his hustle enough to buy the latest whip every year. After all, he’s still driving two ‘90s model cars.
Can’t you hear the slack-mouthed youngsters now?
”He ain’t got no black and yellow and he ain’t got no bitches doing it with no hands, so he hating!” (that sounded like something Riley Freeman would say, doesn’t it?)
But still….anyone who is thinking anything like that properly needs a good old-fashioned Down South ass whooping, or maybe a Huey Freeman styled drop kick.
First of all, Chuck D has protest in his blood. Growing up during the ‘60s, there’s an interconnectedness with the Black struggle. Really, it’s one thing to be born just shy of it, read about it, and get second hand accounts from family members, but it’s another thing altogether to be alive and well during that time to bear some sort of witness. By the time Public Enemy exploded on the scene in the late ‘80s with its over the top hype man, Flavor Flav, it was clear that this was not your average Hip Hop group, even then.
With joints like ‘Rebel Without a Pause’, ‘Can’t Truss It’, ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’, and ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’, Public Enemy’s whole intention was to rage against the machine. Nothing’s changed. Chuck is still as true to the cause today. I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that Chuck never intended to stage a scathing critique against Hip Hop itself. Given societal conditions and the undervalued Black Experience in this country, Chuck may have wanted to continue his duty of instilling cultural pride and pressing for social equality. After all, Hip Hop originated as a vehicle of expression for the voiceless. But thanks to corporate pimping, Hip Hop is now as disappointing as the prom queen turned crack head.
Chuck penned a letter to Davey D and Jigsaw Creekmur from DaveyD.com and AllHipHop.com respectively, venting about the mismanagement of American Hip Hop and how the rest of the world has caught on and excelled beyond the US in their commitment to the art form. He speaks in detail about a greed that is inherent in both the aspiring rappers who are eager to participate in the minstrel show (he actually uses the term ‘black-face’) and the corporate executives who dangle the carrot which is that major label deal.
I spent some time reading the letter; after reviewing it a few times, it started to materialize as a call to arms for many of us who wholeheartedly agree with Chuck. Written while he was in South Africa, some of Chuck’s phrasing was reminiscent of Marcus Garvey, especially when he wrote, “…our agenda (as in Public Enemy) was to show and encourage the Hip Hop community to be comfortable in its mind and skin without chasing valueless Amerikkkan values.”
But the most glaring point in this letter was when Chuck stated that ‘it’s important for the words to be body with the community.’ This is larger than rap lyrics, but this covers the overall purpose of Black media and cultural production in general. The current state of Hip Hop’s diseased nature has infected other cultural productions such as films, books, and television shows. What are we really saying these days and is it enlightening, inspiring, or provoking us to think in any constructive manner at all? Chuck is calling for accountability, starting with himself first, quipping that “there is nothing on this planet materially that is better than myself.”
I have a music podcast called The JETSET and my sole intention for starting it in 2008 was to ensure that these underrated artists had a platform while seeking to preserve Black music from various genres and eras. One of the podcast’s series is called Shine!, which features carefully selected Hip Hop joints from the past and present. I consider this as one small effort in the ongoing struggle of cultural preservation. However, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s more that I can do. Chuck’s letter really has me thinking and while I conjure up something significant, I’ll just go on record by stating that I have officially enlisted in Chuck’s army.
Who’s with me?