Public Enemy, one of the most influential and significant rap groups of all time is still bringing the noise to the masses. Twenty years after the release of arguably the best hip-hop album ever made, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Flavor Flav has put a pause on his televised romanticism, reuniting with grand verbalizer Chuck D to celebrate the classic LP.
Currently, P.E. is treating fans across the world to an unprecedented recital of the album’s every lyric, break beat and instrumental. Although it’s been two decades since the inception of Nation…, Chuck D and Flav continue to deliver the unadulterated, frank, rebellious and often humorous ideologies the hip-hop community has embraced since making their debut in 1987.
In an exclusive press conference leading up to their unforgettable performance at the Festival International De Jazz De Montreal, Chuck and Flav maintain their realness and drop commentary on presidential politics, the troops in Iraq and who’s gonna speak out for the hip-hop generation.
So Chuck, what is the latest with P.E.?
Chuck D: Well, regarding Public Enemy, we are one of the spokespersons for the whole entire genre of hip-hop where there are like a million artists and only like 15 spokespersons. That’s a goddamn shame! We’ve been looking for more people to speak up.
We just got back from 53 countries and a room of about 45 journalists will ask, ‘What have you done recently?’ Well, one thing Public Enemy did was, [being in this group] made us international ambassadors for the genre of hip-hop and rap music. We can’t be geared towards the latest single we drop for a major record label who goes through their publicity machine. I believe now in 2008 that we all realize that whole machine and regime is played out and old. Where we are now are a million artists, all online, doing their thing. And it doesn’t stop there. We develop not just the art but the performance art and developing the music to be more of an act. An act is not going to be weighed and judged by a chart position, marketing campaign, or MTV and BET, depending on who’s going to get paid off. It’s gotta be more than that. These record companies have to develop a new model. MP3 is the way of the world.
Flav: You see? This is the reason why Flavor Flav backs Chuck D. He can always backup what he speaks and nobody can prove him wrong. I am always going to back him up until the day I die. For all you non-believers out there, you are nothing but haters and when my partner Chuck D pitches, he’s striking all y’all out!
Let jump right into the politics. Break down Obama, Chuck.
Chuck D: For one, I support Obama for all of the right and wrong reasons and a couple of them start with a W. The elections are November 2nd or 3rd. What we will see in America will be something the world has never seen before. You will see it all come out on the table. They are talking about how Hillary Clinton supporters will not vote for Obama no matter what. They are saying fuck the party and vote for McCain who is a Republican! The racism is just leaking out in an ugly way. My thing is that, number one, you cannot not talk about race because that’s what it’s called, a presidential race. You gotta use the word anyway.
To the rest of the world, this is the biggest reality television show – the next six months of Barack Obama and the United States. The rest of the world is waiting on a change with the fucked-up U.S. and their foreign policy. Everyone is looking for a change.
As far as the euphoria going on inside the U.S., this is no party. It is important that if the voters get Obama in, it’s going to take eight-times as much courage to have an overstanding of all the bullshit that is going to go down. I mean, anyone who is going to try and clean up some of the mess [Bush] has left is going to have a hard job. Obama is going to have three-times as hard a job, but it’s what he’s asked for.
Obama has been holding his weight, but that’s 50 yards. He has 50 more yards to go for the touchdown. That touchdown is in November, but there is July, August, September and October, and let me tell you that you are going to see some shit that you have never seen before or heard before. It’s all going to come out in the wash. The biggest reality show in the world is happening right now.
Flavor Flav: Check this out, speaking about Obama and the race thing, I heard that Senator Obama was on a television show and they asked him if he was Black. He said, yes, I’m black, but not as black as Flavor Flav! Wowwwww!!! Everybody knows that I am renting some space in that man’s mind! As for McCain, he’s named after some potato company, you know what I’m sayin’? Come on, man. He can’t do nothing for me but make french fries!
Chuck D: With John McCain, for the age that he is, when he says statements like, ‘We can stay in Iraq for all I care,’ he is saying he doesn’t care about the young lives over there. If you were a prisoner of war, you would feel like, “Hey, that’s what they are in there for.” He is not dealing with the aspect of why a young person decides to be in the armed services. They feel that they have no hope here [America], they are like, “Fuck it, I will be all I can be. I’m going because the army brought mixtapes to my high school and DJs cutting up [making scratching noises] “Army” and “Navy.” The [government] is thinking hip-hop would bring people into the armed services. So it’s either that, or do a trade; school costs too much. So we need to overstand that this is serious.
And you, Flav?
Flavor Flav: The first black man to run for president I know of was Dick Gregory in 1968. I would like to see Obama as the first black man in office. Just to say we have a black man running the States for the first time in our lives. Regardless, please beat McCain because McCain is an asshole.
Chuck D: We have always been political. Number one, we are black men in America so we have to know what’s around us at all times. You want the world to be the same, but it’s the darkest people who catch the most hell. That’s just the way it is.
Speaking about being political, I am sure people ask about P.E. and Flav’s role. What do you say about that?
Chuck D: Man, people have to understand that Flav invented his role as a hype man. But other details about what others do in the group people don’t know about including what Professor Griff does, and other P.E. members … We do a lot of serious stuff as well. Flav does what he does. We are all just a diversified family and that is how the world should be recognized. One hand washes the other and everyone plays his part.
And as far as the troops’ morale coupled with all of the world traveling P.E. is doing, would you go as far as doing a show for them in Iraq?
Chuck D: Man, I want those troops to come back. I ain’t going to Iraq. I’ll wait for them to come back.
Flavor Flav: See, talking about Public Enemy and how we are different, Chuck would not go to Iraq, but Flav would. I would go because there are a lot of troops over there and they have been supporting us for a lot of years, know what I’m saying? They can’t come over here and see a good Public Enemy show or meet Chuck and Flav so I would have the heart to go over there. I would do that.
Chuck D: [Laughing] But you would have to go over there with Soulja Boy, know what I mean? They are 18 years-old and they want to see Soulja Boy. They ain’t trying to hear, “I got a letter from the government”! [Flav laughs]. They’d say, ‘They didn’t tell me about that song ["Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos"]. I should’ve listened to that one, but now I’m in this bitch … in Iraq!’