Public Enemy - Enemies Of The State
Celebrating their twentieth anniversary by treating the hordes to a complete run-through of their seminal album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Public Enemy are Oz-bound, with a sting still in their tail. Chuck D talks 3D’s Carlisle Rogers through what keeps them pumped to perform.
Public Enemy, the Rolling Stones of the rap world, are headed to Australia for their fourth tour Down Under, their 65th tour all up and the twentieth anniversary of their magnum opus, the seminal It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
To celebrate, the band will be performing the entire album live. “We have twenty years of music since It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back came out,” says Chuck D in his loose, jangly baritone, “so what we’re going to do is we’re going to do the entire album from beginning to end, then we’re going to possibly throw in some other things. We are going to do the entire album from start to finish. That’s what we promised to do. It will be a lot of fun… a lot of energy, a lot of effort, a lot of noise. We have to keep it turning out, you know. I’m looking forward to it. We are down for truth, justice and the international way.”
While the group’s last original album, How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul-, didn’t hit the street with nearly the momentum of the early records, Chuck says, ironically, that sometimes it’s all about the hype. “We have product that we just want to be able to let people know it exists. I don’t think it’s about making new songs all the time. Sometimes it’s about exposing what you already have. If people have heard of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles, we have to make sure they’ve heard about us too. When people say they’ve never heard of us, I ask if they’ve heard of the Beatles. I ask them what the difference is: exposure is the answer. That involves doing specific tours and tearing the stage up in a way that people have never seen before. We are very good at what we do.”
Chuck says that the secret to the Bomb Squad’s success in the studio, the thing that made all of the Public Enemy albums sound so damned good, so in-your-face, was not so much a particular philosophy as much as just making sure no one person held the reigns in the studio. “My thing is that I try to teach producers the Bomb Squad technique in a new way. That was just, don’t let one person dictate where the production should be at. I can’t stand one-man production teams. Matter of fact, I don’t like soloists either; I don’t think a soloist can do what a group can do. I don’t think a one-man producer can do what a production team can do. When it comes down to rap music I think that’s where some of those aspects come together, as opposed to rock n roll, where that happens with a band.
“Since we did projects like Fear of a Black Planet, the areas of production have changed. I think the magnitude of what you can do has changed. My thing is to introduce new production techniques now. You have to put yourself in a different state of mind. I am also about transforming an artist into an act, so that they can perform what they create.”
Applying that weltenschauung to his own Slam Jams label, Chuck says the next big thing in hip hop, the only thing left, perhaps, is what he calls the ‘She Movement’. “I think women, when they have a collective of voices and duties, they can present something that hip hop needs, they can get it to another state that is healthy for it. I have an all-women group on my label called Crew Girl Order. They capture a lot of my excitement. I think they’re hot and they can make some statements. When people ask me what’s next in hip hop, I say that if you can’t name three all-women groups in hip hop, then you definitely know what’s missing.”
Chuck’s a fan of collaboration on every level, from his own studio to working with different people, a fact probably most eloquently displayed in the 1991 release of Bring the Noise with metal band Anthrax. Sure, we’re used to hearing Rage Against the Machine drop rhymes over metal now, but back then it was pure visionary stuff. “It was Scott Ian’s idea first. We had the same management building. Scott and Charlie Bernard thought it would be a great idea to do a 1991 mash-up of Bring the Noise. They made it happen.
“More than being an artist that was all about ‘why’, I was about ‘why not-’ They took the foot forward on it, and the beautiful thing about that record was that it was followed up by a video and then a tour. That’s what made it stand out even more. Those that thought that the rock/rap combination started then didn’t pay close enough attention to Run DMC, the Beastie Boys and Afrika Bambaataa way before that. Later on Run DMC and Aerosmith did a perfect rendition of Walk This Way. I think the thing that made the Anthrax collaboration so important was that, for the first time, you had a rock group covering a rap record. That was big. People understood that a rap group can take a rock record, but you had that flipped. Now, today, they’re called mash-ups, but perhaps the guy who created them could have been Scott Ian from Anthrax.
“Rick Rubin let us be flexible and autonomous, so that was big of Rick to just let us do our thing. We came together and that’s how it had to be. We had to work that way, we wasn’t gonna work any other way but that way.”
WHO: Public Enemy
WHAT: Play Metro Theatre / Panthers, Newcastle / Days Like This
WHEN: Saturday 27 December / Saturday 3 January / Sunday 4 January