Thursday, February 17, 2011

AND YOU DON'T STOP!: Q&A with CHUCK D Leader of the legendary hip-hop band PUBLIC ENEMY

Carlton Douglas Ridenhour is better know as Chuck D, the leader of the socially conscious hip-hop band Public Enemy.  Chuck D is an author, producer, rapper, music activist, radio show host and supporter of up and coming talent everywhere.  We were able to sit down with Chuck as Public Enemy celebrated the 20th anniversary of their infamous album "Fear of a Black Planet"  on a major world tour this year, check it out...

Q:  We caught Public Enemy’s show at the 9:30 Club when they came through D.C. this past August. Great show, by the way. How was it hitting the road again with long-time bandmate, Flavor Flav, on another world tour?  You just got back.

A:  I mean we’ve never really gotten off the road so it’s like it’s just a continuum. Every year and a half has a different theme and this theme was 20th year anniversary of Fear of a Black Planet.  Public Enemy's been continually touring for 24 years.  I don’t know where people get information sometimes, like we broke up or whatever but we’re the longest running group and we think that there’s been groups that broke up but that’s not us. So I don’t know how they confuse it.

Q:  So we met you this past October.  Both you and Bomb Squad member/producer, Hank Shocklee,  were panelists at the FUTURE OF MUSIC COALITION POLICY SUMMIT held here in D.C. at Georgetown University.   Artist survival in this new digital age was one of the many topics that was discussed.  In your point of view, what would be the top three things that you think aspiring artists need to know given the current landscape of the music business?

A:  They need to know the history of the music and the genre that they’re getting into.  I think artists need to know all the elements and all the details of the surrounding infrastructure to realize how lack of the infrastructure that there is. And I think that – when I say the history before, they need to know what was distribution in the past?  What was manufacturing in the past? What is it now? If we don’t know what happened before, you can’t make parallel adjustments. And I think artists need to definitely be able to manage aspects of technology in order for them to do more things themselves because we’re in the digital realm and if the artist doesn’t know how to actually work these tools then they have to partner up with people that do.                                                                                                                    

Q:  What do you consider to be the most valuable social media tool for you right now? 

A:  There’s a lot of things that are equally valuable. And you can jump ahead and start with social technology and social medias but if it doesn’t really answer to what you’re about and the demographic that you’re trying to talk to, you could be spending your time in an abyss of nowhere. Social media-wise for me I personally choose Twitter because it reduces the amount of work I have to get across and answer questions. I can answer questions in short form. It requires a certain skill that you have to reduce your characters and still get your point across. I like it because I could deal with more people that way whereas email and Facebook – I’m not on Facebook but I have people around me in my company they’re on all social media but personally I’m an ordained "tweeter".  And I don’t tweet things that don’t make sense to me, like I wouldn’t tweet like, “Okay, this is what I had for lunch today and you know.”  For a social gathering per se, I’m always trying to give out an opinion or some advice and that works for me.

Q:  At the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit you mentioned that you are interested in a company overseas called SellaBand, tell us about it. 

A:  Yeah, I’m actually working with a company called SELLABAND and actually what it does is it gathers band funding for and also investment into albums or records or any different project so I’m involved with them on a future record that we have produced as Public Enemy and I really wanted to be involved with working with SellaBand to help other artists see it but sometimes you’ve got to prove that you’ve been using it as well, that’s how Public Enemy got involved in it.

Q:  You’ve done a huge number of collaborations with artists including D.C. native, Henry Rollins, Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth etc...

A:  I never knew Henry was from the D.C. area. I’ve always been a fan of his, Henry Rollins is a god in my eyes. The vision in my mind is that he encouraged me to always do strong shows, never slack off and also encouraged me and my books.

Q:  How did the collaboration with Rollins on Black Flag’s “Rise Above” come about and how do you think hip-hop has influenced those musical genres?

A:  I guess they usually happen from phone calls and “do you mind checking this out?” And that’s how they happened. They don’t really happen from lawyer to managers like they used to and that’s good.  So it’s something that I think – it works for the business and I think artists who communicate with each other on ideas and certain things, I think it’s something of a great direction for the art form.  We need journalists in hip-hop who maintain their smarts and don’t actually stoop to dumb themselves down or dumb themselves in a corner just because they feel it’s the popular direction. I think they need to hold their ground covering with some kind of standing and integrity. Same thing with managers. We don’t need managers that cater to the artist. I think that managers need to encourage the artist and I think too much of that over the last – I’m trying to figure out how many years, maybe 15 years of management and infrastructure being sloppy. The new media, media companies, people who just have been doing it just to stay paid and that kind of ticks me off. For me I think it’s beyond what you get paid. You have to have some passion.                

Q:  You have many great artists on SLAMJAMZ.COM  record label. Can you tell us about Crew Grrl Order and their song, “First Lady” and the SHE revolution that they’re trying to spark?

A:  Yeah, most importantly I think that there have been a bunch of the things that have challenged hip-hop, people talk about hip-hop being such a big musical genre. Well, how about womens involvement in hip-hop? I think that’s fallen off drastically. Women as groups, women who are autonomous to any kind of male-dominated order. The first hip-hop record, there was a woman who was the head of the record company, Sylvia Robinson, who discovered the Sugarhill Gang and Sugar Hill Records was her own company.  Then you had the all female group The Sequence who had like one of the first five records that came out &   The Sequence were in that top five. So you have a women group and women involved in the arrangement of rap records and hip-hop and that’s pretty much been eradicated. It’s been male-dominated and women have been chased out of hip-hop as far as autonomous figures. So I wanted to be involved with helping this out in a brotherly manner. So I want all the artists that we have on SLAMjamz, I don’t say that they are my artists and I don’t say that I’ve discovered them because they’ve already been artists now.  Crew Grrl Order is all women, they think they want autonomous decisions and then they made a record that and not every rap record that comes out has got to talk about what I got or how we manage this and how we’re posing up against that. They did a record about somebody and in the 20th year anniversary of Ladies First by Queen Latifah, they made a record called FIRST LADY which was their dedication to First Lady Michelle Obama, now that’s a first. I would love to get, to have Michelle Obama see the video ( CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO ) one day and listen to the song. But Crew Grrl Order, they made that decision on their own and then at the same time, they also did a record called Go Green which is about the environment. So rap music can change the world and I’m glad to be involved with and then associated with artists that want to make that change. So SHE-movement, what I do is like we, my partner Gary G-Wiz, we set up an internetwork so for women Sisters in Hip-hop Everywhere, and for women in rap music, we set up SHEmovement.com. That’s what we do. We set up portals for our internetwork and for our infrastructure, for the lack of infrastructure that’s out there. So you can go right on the SHEmovement.com and see that there are women artists, emcees, DJs, rap artists, everybody involved in the elements of hip-hop and they’re coming along one by one and we hope that that’s a niche portal for Sisters in Hip-hop Everywhere. That’s what S.H.E. stands for. And we’ll have radio stations and even web TV branching out of that because they’re shooting their own videos, they’re making their own songs and they don’t have to worry about submitting their music to some guy oriented/testosterone-filled thing.

Q:  Given the election of President Barrack Obama, do you still think that America lives In Fear of a Black Planet?

A:  I think America’s policy has been just to distance itself and detach itself from the rest of the world.  And this policy of isolated dominance has negatively affected America and the beautiful thing I think about President Obama is that his whole agenda has been trying to reattach America with the realities of the rest of the planet, how to fit in and not dominate. And even in the State of the Union, the other day he spoke on that. I think those are great attributes of this President, he is trying to reattach America with the rest of the world.  When people ask me,“What do you think about President Barrack Obama?”  I call him President with a salute, is like good man - bad government but he knew that coming in.  He came in prepared.

Q:  We always ask everybody to turn us on to some new music and share with us the five songs and artists that have been looping on their iPod this week.

A:  That’s impossible for me. That’s impossible because I do a radio show. I do a radio show called “And You Don’t Stop.” It goes around the world and we’re setting up our radio internet with RAPSTATION.COM which will be a hub for all the radio shows, playing rap music and hip-hop around the planet. We can be streamed on iTunes on Enemy Radio which is the first dedicated to Public Enemy with music in all our affiliated radio stations. So I have a radio show called, “And You Don’t Stop” and it can be heard on WBAR.org. Check it out on the archive area and it’s almost like 120 minutes of what’s like 60 minutes of Bryant Gumbles' Real Sports. It’s the sum of many parts. So I always have a vast amount of songs circulating around me, past, present, future, international, local. So it’s hard for me to name the names but... I will tell you that on my Crew Grrl Order, the group just started with the Heet Mob which is on my latest album from Kansas City and we had an album out called "Found Missin" and then Son of Bazerk, who actually opened up that night in D.C. And they’re wonderful.

I hope that you tweet me at @MrChuckD and you can catch our music at SLAMjamz.com, which is the longest running hip-hop site. Period.

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