Foreword By Nate LeBlanc
At ten, the thing I noticed was the voice– a commanding instrument that demanded my attention. As a kid, a hip-hop novice, I respected and almost feared Chuck D. His presence dominated my Public Enemy tapes, though he was saying things I couldn’t understand. However, now I know why John Connor sported a PE shirt; not Flav’s borderline gibberish, not the Bomb Squad’s revolutionary layering, or the S1W’s simulated militancy, but Chuck and his thunderous, brilliant rhymes.
Flash forward ten years. Campus was abuzz with the news that the most recent lecture tour would bring the legendary Chuck D to our little corner of the world. Would he rhyme? Talk music? Literally lecture us in the style of some of his more didactic verses? I bought my tickets, waited in a long line, and found my answers in a poorly-lit dining hall. He talked to us like the not-quite-adults that we were. He was by far the realest dude in the room. My most vivid memory is of his palpable consternation that college-educated people all over the world were striking thug poses in deference to prevailing hip-hop trends. He relayed to us, in no uncertain terms, that we should act like what we were—educated people. Good advice.
Ten more years, I’m more or less grown, a man in the world struggling to make ends meet. I appreciate Chuck and his artistry more than ever. There was a time when I didn’t rate Chuck very highly as an MC, but I was using all the wrong criteria. I underestimated what he said and how he said it. As brilliant as the ideas contained in his rhymes may have been, people would not have been as receptive to them if it weren’t for his iconic delivery. More than anything else, I appreciate the fact that he is out there in the world, making himself available to students, news organizations, and independent journalists like David in order to provide reasoned commentary from a hip-hop perspective. He is an absolutely brilliant speaker, an underrated musician, and the best example I can possibly think of for up-and-coming cats to model themselves on—as is readily apparent in the following interview.
Why do you think your messages in PE’s songs have stayed relevant for all these years? Talk about your writing a bit.
I’m someone who was born in 1960. I was at the right age at the right stage when I started writing. I spoke from the perspective of a cat that was born in the ‘60s. I was a curious kid, as I think most kids are, and I always wanted to find answers in my own particular way. I wrote about what I knew about; history, you know, Vietnam and Dr. King, Black Panthers and stuff. Actually as a child, I was always privy to those things. And I mean, from a purely writing standpoint—–you gotta write about somethin’! Continue reading “The Rhythm The Rebel: interview with Chuck D + DJ Eleven’s PE minimix”