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                         -=*/> Buzzz Bros. <\*=-
  • =– –=*

{ 20 Questions for Chuck D }

                           Public Enemy's No. 1
                        Raps about race, groupies
                         and why he doesn't sing
                    {     his daughter to sleep    }
                    *=--                        --=*
  • =– –=*

{ A Playboy interview conducted by Bill Wyman }

          { Originally appearing in Playboy,  November 1990 }
          *=--                                           --=*
                             Text Entry By
                              Major Havoc
  From it's inception, rap was one of the most potent musical forms of the

Eighties. At its slightest, it was filled with sexual braggadocio, and almost obsessive self-absorption: The subject of most rap music was, in fact, rap music. But groups such as Grandmaster Flash and the furious Five, who recorded "The Message," and Kurtis Blow, who hit the charts with "The Breaks," demonstrated that rappers could be articulate and stridently political.

  Public Enemy's leader is the stentorian Chuck D, whose deep-voiced

preaching is pitted against the chirpy tenor of his clownish co-rapper, Flavor Flav. The group enjoys muddy politics: To a core philosophy of black self-help, the band adds various strains of black radicalism, most pungent amoung them an admixture of uncritical Farrakhanism. Yet Public Enemy has achieved massive, cross-racial success, selling millions of records and filling arenas across the country. The band's third album, "Fear of a Black Planet," is, in addition to rap, riveting rock music. Chuck D was born Carlton Ridenhour 30 years ago. Bill Wyman spoke with him at Public Enemy headquarters on Long Island and at the offices of Def Jam Records in Manhattan. "The shouted slogans and ragged beats are for the stage and the studio," reports Wyman. "In person, Chuck is personable and quiet, with, as he puts it, 'a face to fit in.' It turns out that the fiery radical would rather talk about his family and his business than about politics: He and his partner and producer, Hank Shocklee, employ nearly 30 people; he's proud of the fact that they practice what they preach."

  1. =*/> Question # 1. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Rap music can be jarring and harsh, almost antimusic. What sort

          of music was around the house when you were growing up?

CHUCK D: My mother and father were record collectors. My pops was into

          jazz; to this day, I don't have a sharp liking for it, though I
          guess it's in me.  My moms played all the soul.  She'd play Al
          Green over and over and over - the same record, over and over
          again - and then Stevie Wonder over and over, and then Aretha,
          Aretha, Aretha.
  1. =*/> Question # 2. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What was your road to rap?

CHUCK D: I would go to clubs and check out the rappers, but it got to the

          point where they were using too much echo chamber and the words
          were muffled.  I wanted to hear straight-out rhymes.  I thought
          I could do a better job.  And one day, I did.
  1. =*/> Question # 3. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Your observations are of an artistic nature and they're being taken

          very seriously.  Do you consider yourself a black leader now?

CHUCK D: I'm a switchboard and a dispatcher of information. But I want to

          be in a a position to encourage black people to be leaders, and
          when you set some sort of exaple, you have to take on some of the
          responsibilty.  There are about 30 people in our structure, and
          there's never going to be a situation where me and Hank are walking
          around like Donald Trump.  Being a black leader is not just saying,
          "Well, I'm Nelson Mandela."  A black leader takes care of his kids,
          endorses some sort of family structure and keeps his family
          together.  I think my father is a black leader.
              Not many black males are men.  We have boys who are sixty years
          old.  What makes a man is accepting responsibilities and having a
          low tolerance for oppresing forces.
  1. =*/> Question # 4. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What's the difference between Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan?

CHUCK D: Michael Jordan's face isn't shifting. Michael Jackson you feel

          sorry for.  Michael Jordan you don't feel sorry for, because he is
          doing exactly what he wants to do on his own terms.  People are
          crossing over to -him-.  Michael Jackson feels that he'll get more
          acceptance if he changes his face so it looks nicer to white
          people.  He failed to understand that people liked him as he was,
          and motherfuckers don't like to see him with a lack of respect for
          what God gave him.  Back in the early Eighties, Michael Jackson
          could have really changed the way white people looked at black
          people.  It's not what's outside you.  It's what's inside you. The
          music comes from within.
  1. =*/> Question # 5. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What did Carlton Ridenhour do before he became Chuck D?

CHUCK D: I was a messenger for a black company, delivering Government

          photos.  The people who owned the place gave me a lot of
          inspiration, because it was netirely a black-owned operation, with
          a lot of white people working for it.  I just loved working there.
          I wrote Yo! Bum Rush the Show [Public Enemy's first album] while I
          was there.  Also, me and Flavor used to drive these U-Hauls for my
          father's business, and that was some trick. People in New York
          would crowd the street.  But they wouldn't crowd the street when
          Flavor was driving.
  1. =*/> Question # 6. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Can you explain Flavor's clock?

CHUCK D: Back in '87, people were wearing those stop watches, and one day,

          one of the boys brought up this clock.  I thought it was hype, and
          I started wearing a bigger clock.  He just kept getting bigger and
          bigger clocks.  I took my clocks off.
  1. =*/> Question # 7. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: You make some of the hardest rock records ever made - they're

          dissonant, loud and challenging.  Does this approach make it
          difficult to get your message across?

CHUCK D: One of our objectives is to uplift our race and rebuild the black

          structure, rebuild the black man and woman.  A lot of us are
          hardheaded about it.  But if I smack you on the head with this
          newspaper, you'll definately listen up.  Bang! "Yeah!  What's Up?"
          Rather than just me saying, "Yo, check this out."
              Originally, we wanted to make a record that would stand out
          from all the others sonically.  We made our first single, Public
          Enemy No. 1, in December 1984.  I liked that particular sample, but
          there was another consideration:  We could monitor who was
          listening.  My parents lived on the corner, and I could listen to
          what the cars were playing on their systems as they drove by.  If
          you just heard a beat, it could be any record.  But if it had the
          noise on it, then I knew they were playing the jam.
  1. =*/> Question # 8. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: In May 1989, your former band member Professor Griff announced that

          "Jews are responsible for the majority of wickedness that goes on
          across the globe."  The predictable brouhaha ensued, you apologized
          and Griff ultimately left the group.  Around that time, you played

*(see note) a concert in Chicago, and you sought the advice of Louis Farrakhan.

          What did he say to you?

CHUCK D: He said, Chuck, what you got to do is, you got to lead. And if it

          doesn't go your way, you've got to put your foot down.  For the
          sake of being right against what's wrong.  The Spike Lee movie
          [Do the Right Thing] came out, and the media were at the starting
          gate.  I was trying to handle the internal situation [with
          Professor Griff], but if I had the chance to do it all over again,
          I would have told -him- to handle it, or else.
  1. =*/> Question # 9. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Do you rap your daughter to sleep at night?

CHUCK D: No, my daughter sings to me. Shit, I can't sing a lick. When I

          off stage, I can't rap, and I can't remember lyrics too well. I
          try to sing a little reggae to her.  But he's singing off the
          radio already.  She's into some other shit.
  1. =*/> Question # 10. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: How did you acquire your penchant for sloganeering?

CHUCK D: It's our background in the black community. We always saw that

          black people bought shit that was not marketed to them.
          Corporate America does not understand this.  If you want to sell
          to black America, all you got to do is sell to the whites.  Black
          people don't seperate things into black and white; everything in
          the country is white.  If we just said, We're only going to buy
          shit thats marketed to black people, we wouldn't have a fucking
          thing.  [Holds coffee cup up] What, a mug for blacks?  [Mocking]
          "I'm not going to buy Cheerios until I see a black logo on it."
          That's the background me and Hank had.  We weren't selling
  1. =*

/> Question # 11. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What hero broke your heart?

CHUCK D: Ralph Abernathy went out like a cold-ass wig. [Abernathy's book,

          And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, contained a brief reference to
          Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, last night, supposedly shared with
          at least two women, which provoked furor amoung black leaders.
          Abernathy died of a heart attack a few months later.]  And it's sad
          to see people of that stature disappear with no tears.  The things
          that happened on the inside should have stayed on the inside.  It
          shouldn't have become public discussion, because it clouded
          Abernathy's objectives, and people wanted to dwell on those
          negative points.  It's like with us: Public Enemy can talk about
          eighty positive things, but people will always dwell on the
          anti-semitism or racism from 1989.
  1. =*/> Question # 12. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Public Enemy belittles gays in its lyrics. Isn't that a form of


CHUCK D: Not really. Like I sing in my song: "Man to man / I don't know if

          they can / From what I know / The parts don't fit."  Love between
          two men shouldn't involve sex.  People don't know what true love is
          - even a man and a woman shouldn't just say, I'm going to sex you
          out and that's going to be love.  There are gays in the black
          community because black women are not being loved from the heart,
          and black men are feeling alienated.  This causes people to
          withdraw from the normal man - woman relationships.
  1. =*/> Question # 13. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What are Public Enemy groupies like compared with, say, Motley Crue


CHUCK D: [Laughs] They're a lot neater. They're more correct, they got

          their heads together, they want to learn more.  They're just
          happy that we're some brothers taking a stand.  When we first came
          out, our whole thing was not to appeal to women.  Every time a rap
          group would come along, they'd turn into sex symbols.  I said that
          when I started Public Enemy, it was going to be the best group in
          the world, and I'd look out for the brothers first.  Our program
          is to -rebuild- the black man so he's got respect for himself, and
          for the black woman too.  You're not going to see us singing songs
          like [falsetto] "I love you baby, and let me get you in the back
          and sex you in the corner."  Our song Revolutionary Generation is
          about true love for our sisters.  If you have children, take care
          them.  Help your sister out, help your community out by being a man
          leading that community.  'Cause our sisters have been holding the
          weight of the community for so long.
  1. =*/> Question # 14. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: The Professor Griff controversy sidelined Public Enemy for months.

          During the hullabaloo, you made the almost plaintative remark, "I
          was looking forward to spending a summer talking about Elvis
          Presley and John Wayne."  You were referring to the calculated
          insults from Fight the Power: "Elvis is a hero to most / But he
          never meant shit to me, you see / Straight out racist that sucker
          was simple and plain / Motherfuck him and John Wayne."  We'd like
          to give you the opportunity now to tell us what you have against

CHUCK D: Elvis' attitude toward blacks was that of people in the South at

          that particular time.  The point of the song is not about Elvis so
          much, and it's not about people that idolize that motherfucker,
          like he made no errors and was never wrong.  Elvis doesn't mean
          shit.  White America's heros are different from black America's
          heros.  John Wayne could go around in these movies and kill
          Indians and he was all right.  But a black man like Louis
          Farrakhan comes out for the uplifting of black people wand whites
          pick at things and throw shit at him.  The people I look up to are
          [Illinois Representative] Gus Savage, Farrakhan, Angela Davis, and
          even Jesse Jackson.  Nat Turner - who went into Virginia and
          wreaked havoc on its oppressors - was righteous.  You know who
          meant shit to me?  Marcus Garvey.  Marcus Garvery is -not- an
          American Icon.  He was dogged by the American Government.  You
          know what I'm saying?  Not John Wayne.  Not Elvis Presley.  Not
          Marilyn Monroe.  I give less than a -fuck- about those
  1. =*/> Question # 15. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: One of the things Public Enemy does best is manipulate the media by

          making deliberately controversial statements.  At the same time,
          there's a risk of going too far: Your account of the Griff
          contorversy in Welcome to the Terrordome started a new round of
          anti-Semitism charges against the group.  Would you give us an
          explication of those lines?

CHUCK D: A lot of times, I'll say something just to make people jump. Then

          I can say, "See, I caught you offside."  I plan the dangers of it.
          This time, everyone was accusing me of bringing back Hitler's
          reasons for killing the Jews, something that I never heard of in my
          life.  Now, out of one hundred lines in the song, they looked at
          four.  The lines go like this: "Crucifixion ain't no fiction."  I
          believe that Christ was a brother who got crucified.  "So called -
          chosen frozen."  That was my only reference to the Jewish
          community, which was appaled by the remarks in the Griff article.
          "Frozen" means stopped in their tracks.  And I said "so-called
          chosen" because I don't think that one group of people are God's
          chosen people.  "Apology made to whoever pleases."  That's what I
          did in 1989 after all this happened.  "Still they got me like
          Jesus."  My whole point is that the media is still taking me out.
              And the response was, "Well, I don't believe it."  What's your
          criteria for not believing me?  A lot of people were mad because I
          put Griff back in the group after taking him out.  But then again,
          it's my group, and this is the black community I live in.  I could
          live down the block from this man, but that's not white America's
          concern.  I said that this was wrong, and now let's move on.
  1. =*/> Question # 16. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Once and for all, explian what seperates blacks and Jews today.

CHUCK D: It's bullshit. No one in the black community gives a fuck about

          Jewish people.  The issue with black people is when do I get paid,
          and why are these white motherfuckers fucking with me?  Black
          people do not seperate Jews from gentiles.  Really I don't
          understand it.
  1. =*/> Question # 17. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: You've said that you have no problem with whites; it's just "acting

          Caucasian" that causes problems.  Are you using the word Caucasian
          in the same way some whites use the word nigger?

CHUCK D: Historically, acting caucasian hasn't done one motherfucking

          positive thing for black people.  If whites want to do something
          positive, they can realize that they're a small part of the human
          family and not the big part of it that they think they are, trying
          to convince the world that they are.
  1. =*/> Question # 18. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Who can tell you you're full of shit?

CHUCK D: [Laughs] Oh, shit, man, yeah! I got some parents who put me in my

          place.  Hank will put me in my place.  That's what happened last
          year.  Hank said, Listen: Give a fuck.  You're responsible for
          thirty motherfuckers.  Family and structure are important.
  1. =*/> Question # 19. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: What is the proper target for black rage? Are you advocating hate?

CHUCK D: Hate is not a nice word. You got to hate your oppressor, but you

          have to know who your oppressor is, and your oppressor is not an
          individual.  It's a collective train of thought; it's a collective
          state of mind.  You should hate that shit.  But you shouldn't hate
          a person.
              Although, if that person claims that he is at the steering
          wheel of that force of oppression, then you make your move, you
          know what I'm saying? [Laughs]
  1. =*/> Question # 20. <\*=-

PLAYBOY: Arsenio Hall has not yet asked you to come on his show. How come?

CHUCK D: Arsenio has a lot of pressure on him. He's got to please

          everybody, but at the same time, he has a black responsibility. He
          shouldn't be so scared to put us on.  Public Enemy has a larger
          white audience than any of the rappers who have been on Arsenio's

* Havoc's Note: (From Question # 8.)

               I was at that show in July of 1989.  It was an outside show
               at Farrakhan's Nation Center.  Myself, and the two others
               that I went with were the only whites there.  I have to admit,
               we were treated with more respect than I got at the Grateful
               Dead show the same month.
  1. =*/> Buzzz Bros. <\*=-
          To all racists, bigots, and those with hatred in your hearts:
                               Gas Face Given

_ Special Thanks to: Lorraine Olivia (The Playmate of the Month - who happens to be from Chicago) _

© MCMXC -=/*> Buzzz Bros. <\*=-


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