The rapper who blew black American music onto a whole new planet with Public Enemy is back. Only this time it's CHUCK D the author who wants to Fight The Power. Words: Alastair Mabbott
AFRICAN AMERICANS PLOUGHED $53 million during 1996 into high-tech equipment enabling them to scour the Internet for minority news and programming that had almost vanished from the airwaves. This recent revelation could have come straight from Fight The Power. the new book by Public Enemy’s former frontman Chuck D.
Chuck realised long ago the importance of
the broadcast media. As Public Enemy established themselves as the world’s greatest rap group. they put the subject centre-stage on tracks like ‘She Watch Channel Zero’. And though the group disbanded two years ago. the work goes on for Chuck. as rapper and communicator.
Published in Britain by Edinburgh’s Payback Press. Fight The Power condenses the messages of Chuck’s raps and interviews into a book that belongs on the desk of every prominent American citizen. white or black. The rapper is to bring his message personally to Scotland in an event at The Arches. Glasgow.
No one likes to say they have all the answers. but Fight The Power has plenty of suggestions. Nevertheless. it is a saddening read. Chuck cites the Nation of Islam as a possible way ahead. and when pressed will admit that Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March has been the only event in recent years to have filled him with hope. it is not a book filled with great optimism.
‘l‘m always optimistic. but. you know. I’m a realist. I know the type of work that needs to be done to bring it up to speed.‘ says Chuck down the line from his New York HQ. where he is working on an album he promises will sound like an unholy union of Redman. Rage Against The Machine. Pink Floyd and The Prodigy.
So. in between excerpts from Public Enemy’s past. he uses history and his own observations to draw a picture of the current conditions for blacks in America. He explains why there can be more black celebrities but less black power. lambasting successful blacks for not using black lawyers and management and pointing out what black people need before they can have real communities instead ofjust ‘plantations‘.
He is in no doubt what the priority is: broadcasting. While white America has a whole range of its community represented in the media. black presence is restricted to entertainers and sportsmen. ‘Trying to get control of a signal. do you know how much of a fight that is? To get control of a worldwide signal. where you can transmit to billions of people? That’s the ultimate goal. Not to fuckin’ be a politician. you know. in a little locale.‘
Going against received wisdom. he believes he can get results by combating the
networks with logic rather than by attacking their pockets. But in other cases. bank accounts are very much targets. Take the negative images of blacks churned out by Hollywood:
Chuck D favours tracing the descendants of
studio owners like Louis B. Mayer and Harry M. Warner and suing them for reparations. This strategy of singling out individuals can be extended to encourage more responsible and community-minded behaviour in the present day. believes Chuck. ln Fight
’To get control of a worldwide signal, where you can transmit to billions of people —- that's the ultimate goal.
Not to be a politician in a little locale.’
The Power he suggests individuals in big companies should lose the protection of the corporate monolith and become personally accountable for their actions.
‘Names will be named. heads will be fuckin’ chopped. I’m down with that.‘ he says.
This is more than just mouthing off. Although Chuck isn’t giving much away. there are hints of a real plan to identify influential people and take them to task.
‘l’m talking about the people that control aspects in the black community and black music companies and stuff like that.’ he says. ‘Things that I know personally. i wouldn’t say that the control of the black community is that vast if i didn’t know that it was.
‘The control is based on
community has no direction anyway, so you can exploit the direction of the people with images that they uphold a little more importantly than anything else. because there’s no leadership out there. And you know what? When you identify the roaches. they start running.’
At one point in Fight The Power, he quotes the saying: ‘If you’re looking for a leader. be one.’ How far is he prepared to take it? ‘You take it as far as . . . you know. you never waver on your word. And l’ve seen the industry turn these young people that have made records into monsters and I’ve seen the industry use ’em up and life goes on. making money and everything else goes on. without anybody really caring.’
‘l’d like to see the Rap game elevate to a level like the NBA.’ he writes. To that end. he’s starting REACH (Rappers Educating All Curriculum Through Hip Hop). an organisa- tion which aims to help rappers avoid the scrapheap. and includes training them in public relations. There are other areas Chuck wants to infiltrate. but the one thing he shrinks from is entering the world of politics.
‘No. I’ve been an entertainer and I’ve been pretty much a person that has stretched the boundaries of entertainment and music.‘ he says. ‘but I think a politician’s got to be someone that understands the nuts and bolts of running the community. There’s a lot of people out there trained to do so. but they don’t have the magnification to be communicators.
‘A politician should be a person that runs the community first and the communication should be second. For a performer. communication’s first and the actual doing of anything is irrelevant.’
Fight The Power: Race, Rap And Reality by Chuck D with Yusuf lab is published by Payback Press, Thu 30 Oct at £12.99. Chuck D is at The Arches, Glasgow. Sat 8 Nov, 9pm. Tickets from The Arches box office, £5 in advance, £6 on the door, 0141 221 4001.
Year of a black planet: Chuck D in his Public Enemy days 24 Oct—6 Nov 1997 THE “ST 17