Thursday, December 31, 2009
BEST OF THE 00s: CHUCK D
Why so defensive? Because even though I am not part of the hip-hop communtiy, I know how the genre tends to look at its legends. Sit back, stay out of the way, don't comment on what's going on today. That ain't Chuck's way, and that's one of the many things I respect about the man. As he says in "Can You Hear Me Now" from the great 2007 album How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?, "At the age I am now, if I can't teach, I shouldn't even open up my mouth, begin to speak." If you want to know his critiques of hip-hop, read his Terrordome posts. Or even better, pick up How You Sell Soul, and PE's 2005 New Whirl Odor. It's pretty easy for today's hip-hop artists to write Chuck off as "old," "out of touch" or "irrelevant." Yeah, go on believing that. But it lets you off the hook way to easy.
Back to the music, both of the albums I just mentioned have classic songs. Yeah, I said "classic." Are the albums as classic as It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back or Fear Of A Black Planet? I'll answer with another question: if The Clash stayed together, do you think they could have topped The Clash or London Calling? Right. PE has some songs that hold up to the older stuff: "MKLVFKWR" ("make love fuck war"), produced by Moby, is one of their greatest. I hope they work together again. "Harder Than You Think" is one of my favorite PE songs ever.
I guess have to mention Flavor Flav. Without Flav, Public Enemy wouldn't be the same, and he is totally irreplacable. I love listening to Flav's parts on the PE records, and yeah, I wish he didn't enter the reality tv circus ('nuff said). That said, it has got to be challenging for Chuck to be in the band with him for all these years, but they have kept it together.
Chuck D isn't gonna go quietly. It wouldn't suit him. Even if he stopped making records tomorrow (which I hope doesn't happen), he would still be a force to be reckoned with. He can host TV and radio shows, or write. Black or white, he doesn't let you off the hook easily. I'm glad there's someone out there with the balls to do that.