Question in the Form of an Answer: Chuck D

Perhaps you’ve heard of this fellow. As the man who wrote “She Watch Channel Zero,” I have to ask what you think of the Charlie Sheen tomfoolery that’s been dominating the...
By    March 11, 2011

Perhaps you’ve heard of this fellow.

As the man who wrote “She Watch Channel Zero,” I have to ask what you think of the Charlie Sheen tomfoolery that’s been dominating the cable news networks as  the Middle East is simultaneously in the midst of a regional Revolution.

The corporations have been extremely at successful at becoming stand-ins for the government. The goal of both is to turn human beings into consumers and have them worship the concepts of ownership. Turning humans into robots. They thrive on the dysfunction of human beings. People always say to me, I haven’t heard anything from you in a while, but I’ve always been active and always positive. Let me rob a liquor store and everyone would call that ‘news.’  When it boils down to media companies, writers have editors and editors have bosses, and those guys have a boss, and then his boss is accountable to stockholders.

Whenever anything is reduced to a profit, it reveals the evils of capitalism — anything goes. In the place of any religion, ourg od is the dollar. Our god is Capitalism and when that starts to manifest into another thing, we need news to cover the dysfuntion of human beings. Charlie Sheen gets more burn than even Gadaffi.  And even when Gadaffi and Mubarak were on the spotlight, what’s happening in the rest of the world. Say there’s a giant disaster going on in LA, does that leave a bank open to being robbed. It’s the same idea with media — you have all these whippings of mass distraction.

That’s why I’m in this deeper than that. I built portals, I do radio shows. Go to RAPstation, I organize a radio show that just launched. I’m involved in the art of this. There’s more than what’s being delivered in current hip hop.

Do you feel that the infrastructure of online media and its free means of transmission has liberated artists from the confines of having to get out their message through other forms of content delivery like a record label or the terrestrial radio?

You can circumvent the outlets, but they still need infrastructure. Sports give the best sense of organization. For example, you can have a cat that’s like 17 yrs old playing on a High School team. Whether they’re the star or on the bench or playing intramurals, there’s a structure that belies the top order. Hip hop has been these scattered happenstances that aren’t about the organization but about the artist. You have these great pockets of radio shows can be found online, but they’re lost among 12 billion other signals, lost amongst the 12 billion other artists. We need to organize and build the infrastructure so they don’t get lost.

I’m curious if you’ve heard of the group Odd Future and if so, what your thoughts are on the phenomenon of attention that has been lavished upon them?

I haven’t heard of them. I  just left 27 countries where I was touring and we forget that there are movements in other countries that far beyond LA or New York. Those cities are stuck in themselves thinking that they’re the center of the earth. They’re the center of Hollywood and the media in the US, so things slant heavily New York and maybe even Dirty South-centric, but I was just in Capetown listening to click sounds and rappers bending music and beats in the wildest ways. I think there’s gotta be some sort of World Cup so that we can really see how far hip hop has fallen off in the US.

Why do you believe hip-hop has fallen off domestically in comparison to what other country’s are doing?

They’re very progressive and there’s a real network of radio promoters and venues. They’re better at relying on each other and helping ensure that everyone eats at the end of the day. They’re  motivated by a bunch of different principles, whether they exist in Germany or Capetown or New Zealand, these places are building and have built their own structures to support hip-hop, while we’ve let ours collapse.

What do you think about England and grime and dubstep? Hank Shocklee’s been playing a lot of dubstep on his radio shows lately.

England is a media center that gives itself a badge and allows itself to ignore the badges from other areas. It’s not just England. There’s a scene in Glasgow and London isn’t paying attention to that. I want everyone to acknowledge the movements around the world. Hip hop is 30 years old and these movements are legitimate all over the earth.

You’ve been very vocal about the demise of the hip-hop group. What is it about groups that you think can’t be equaled by solo artists?

If you wanna boil it into entertainment, groups give everyone something to dig into. Entertainment is still entertainment. If you’re fucked up and drunk, you want to go to a different place, that’s the same thing with entertainment.For one person to do it, they better be phenomenal. In a group you can come up with so many different aspects. You can have specialists who can do solos. You better be like Sammy Davis Jr. great to get the attention of a mass audience by yourself, and even then, he still had the Rat Pack.

Is there anyone contemporary who you think has been able to do that?

Jay Z has just been able to accomplish that, running a record label and be out there and mix rap with performance art. After all, hip hip started from that the collaboration of crews and graffiti and mc’ing the djing. There’s always been this merging of elements.

It’s about giving someone a reason to pay money to see what you can do. Otherwise, if they can do what you do, why would they support you? Rappers and fans need to learn the distintinction between audience and performer. That’s what makes the NBA so fantastic. No one can do what they do. Even thought there are those crazy fans who think they can.

I know you’re a Knicks fan. I have to ask about the ‘Melo trade.

See the thing is that I believe chemistry is the only thing that makes a team go to the next level. That’s why I dig the Celtics. They have those rare cases where they had a couple a pieces and added more pieces seamlessly. They play ball with an understanding. Even the Lakers were able to do that after they acquired Pau Gasol for a fish sandwich.

Just because we got Carmelo and Stoudamire, doesn’t automatically mean we’re going to be the best. It reminds me back in the day when free agent first began and Spencer Haywood and McAdoo switched teams and they didn’t make squads immediate championship contenders.

I never like to see the big market teams smash out the little market teams. Whenever you see a team like Oklahoma City busting ass, it’s healthy. But think about it, take the average player. Where do you think they’d rather be? OKC or LA? They’re going to want to be on Sunset spending money, getting these model chicks. That’s why it’s cool to see a guy like Durant. He grew up in DC and can deal with OKC. He’s a quiet dude and fits well, but not everyone can be like Kevin Durant.

I totally empathize with everything you’re saying. I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan and before last year, they’d been worthless for a decade.

Definitely. Back before free agency went into its thirds generation phase, they were  dominant. They had a great farm system, they made great trades, they got get better. But now, it boils down to getting the bast players. That was the cancer that drove the first couple strikes that nearly ruined baseball. How can teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City compete with the Yankees?

So do you prefer football for its parity? Obviously, the Steelers have done well for themselves.

Football is different because a team that could be losing can put the crush on you on any given week. Players are usually between 22 and 27 and usually only have four and five yr careers. That’s a small window and there’s so few games that a team can go from nowhere to somewhere really quickly. There’s more parity and a large turnover rate. If  a quarterback turns out to be an arrogant asshole to his teammates, they’re going to get that motherfucker somehow. If a team’s losing and they think he’s wack, he ain’t got my back, maybe they won’t try as hard to block for him. You aint have that in baseball, they’re in their own enclave. And when you see the best players, they always end up going to the Yankees.

So who’s taking the NBA championship this year?

I ain’t making no predictions. I’ve been picking the Celtics as my surrogate team for 10 yrs and says everyone said I’m crazy because of their traditions and the old school shit. But I always root for the old school. When Boston lost to LA last year, I didn’t watch TV for three weeks I was so mad. But you know as long as Kobe Bryant is in the NBA, I wouldn’t bet against him. There’s nothing like that motherfucker. I know people want to pay attention to Lebron and I understand that. But Kobe’s the closest thing to Jordan. He’s got that passion and attitude and he’s never satisfied. ,

As far as sports go though, football doesn’t fall victim to that bullshit of the other sports. I’m actually very passionate about the purity of football. I’m kind of a Johnny come lately to it, but I love it. I’m mad the Jets didn’t make it further last year

And as far as baseball, I grew up as a Mets fan, but now the Mets kind of do the same shit as the Yankees but on a small level. I don’t give a fuck though. I give a fuck about the rap.

What’s coming up for you?

Public I got all my updates and other stuff. Everything you or anyone could want to know. My email address is [email protected] You can give it out to whomever you want.

MP3: Public Enemy-“She Watch Channel Zero”

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