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Chuck D January 2002

H.E.A.R. Honors CHUCK D

As one of the trailblazers of the rap movement, Chuck D was promoting New York hip-hop acts as early as 1979. The son of political activists, he was studying graphic design when he was drawn into the music scene, which had formerly been just a hobby. The turning point came when he saw Dick Gregory, the activist, comedian, and health nut, give a speech that stressed education through entertainment. This would become the basic principle of Public Enemy (official site), which he formed in 1986 with friend Hank Shocklee. When Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, and Terminator X came on board, writers dubbed them the "Black Panthers of rap," and their influence on the burgeoning rap music scene was unrivaled through the remainder of the decade.

Their critical reputation was established with their album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, in 1987. The squadrons of security forces that accompanied the group's tour attracted some media attention, as did the anti-Semitic cracks of Professor Griff, a Nation of Islam follower (he was expelled from the band, but later rehired). Public Enemy's next album, It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, rose high on Billboard's charts and made People's list of the best rap recordings ever made. The group's Apocalypse '91 was another top-five seller, and their video for "By the Time I Get to Arizona" raised a storm of controversy. The song, written as a protest to Arizona's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, was accompanied by a video that featured a reenactment of the King assassination spliced with shots of sixties civil rights protests. It ended with a series of assassinations.

Rolling Stone named Public Enemy Best Rap Group in 1991. The group's later efforts were not up to previous standards, however, and in 1995, Chuck D announced the group's demise. On his own, Chuck D scored much of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and he appears as a frequent lecturer at minority schools, urging kids to stay away from drugs and violence. His late 1996 solo release, Autobiography of Mistachuck, provided an indictment of the unrealistic expectations for easy money that the music industry promotes in poor black communities and established beyond a doubt his standing as the conscience of rap. Chuck D's influence should not be underestimated: Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot claims that "What Bob Dylan did for rock in the 1960s, what George Clinton did for funk and Bob Marley did for reggae in the 1970s, Public Enemy's Chuck D has done for rap: given it legitimacy and authority far beyond its core following."

Public Enemy will release a new album in February 2002 that will include four remixes produced by fans. During the summer, Chuck D allowed fans to download a capella tracks of "Shut Em Down,""Public Enemy No. 1," "B Side Wins Again," and "By The Time I Get To Arizona," from his website slamjamz.com, and invited fans to compete for the best remixes, which would be included on the upcoming album.

Owen Lake and Ross Farwell of Madison, Wisconsin won for "B Side Wins Again," Jeronimo Punx of Buenos Aires, Argentina won for "Public Enemy No. 1," Functionist of Austria won for "Shut Em Down," and Moleman Saphone of Long Island, New York won for "By The Time I Get To Arizona." All of the winners will receive co-songwriting credit and royalties from the sale of the new album.

"It's been tremendous," Chuck D said of the response to the remix competition to Rolling Stone. "We had the acapellas downloaded 11,000 times and had 450 remixes done. Our virtual staff of thirty people have combed through the 450 mixes and picked the winners for each of the four songs. My point was definitely telling people that the world has more to offer. I think the industry pretty much suits itself and protects itself against the ongoing creativity of its public."

In addition to the remixes, a new song will also be included on the set, "Get Your S--- Together," which was written after the September 11 terror attacks. Chuck D plans to make more a capellas available for remixing on slamjamz.com in December.

You can H.E.A.R. Chuck D's Public Service Interview on HEARNET.COM (coming soon!!!!). Chuck D supports good hearing for the future and you should too. Thanks Chuck!


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