** Interview Chuck D 11-12-08 ** NH Carlton Hotel Amsterdam **
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
20th Anniversary Tour
1. Everything as we know it from an upfront perception will change, while many things behind the scene will remain the same.
Saul van Stapele- - Did you vote for Obama and did you vote before?
CHUCK D-Yes I voted for him. What one votes is a personal business, but yes. I have always voted when I was in the country, I never voted with an absentee ballot and I was out of the country a lot of times in early November.
Saul van Stapele- - Then a matter of picking the lesser worse candidate?
CHUCK D-The lesser of two evils. Have to vote because people died for those rights. No excuses not to participate in the progress. A lot of people feel like it doesnt count but then I say: who are you to have that individual thought; what is going to work is only going to work with the collective.
Saul van Stapele- - What in your view is the significance of his victory?
CHUCK D-The significance is that it changes the perception of the US is viewed in the world. Now is the opportunity to put that perception into real change. The perception that America comes close to what it says on paper, that everyone has a chance, that there is equality. Perceptions need work.
Saul van Stapele- - Did it in any way change your view on US politics?
CHUCK D-It changed everybodys perception, our language The reality might be the same but in order to discuss the problems with the system, the government, requires another language. You can no longer say that the constitution is hypocritical, fuck Bush. You can still say fuck the government but you are going to have to give clearer reasons why. You have to change the language because the realities change, you have people believing in a concept of changing something.
Saul van Stapele- - Prophets of rage: what do you feel you have predicted on It Takes A Nation about the development of US politics in the last 20 years?
CHUCK D-I dont feel I have predicted anything. But Martin Luther King Jr. said that what America said on paper, they didnt live up to that promise. It falls short of the constitution. That has been the basics of my songs, saying how it falls short and how to come fixing things.
2. I for the first time in my life look at the flag a bit differently now. If I were to meet president Obama I would proudly salute him and address him as sir.
Saul van Stapele- - Black steel in the hour of chaos: they could not understand that Im a black man and I could never be a veteran. Does the feeling behind that statement prevail?
CHUCK D-I could never be a veteran. US uses its army and war for the wrong thing, they use it for personal gain.
Saul van Stapele- - Do you expect that to change?
CHUCK D-No, I dont. The government of the US is supported by big rich people, by big businesses. Just like Holland, where rich people still call themselves king or queen.
Saul van Stapele- - Its a rather ceremonial function here.
CHUCK D-Thats what they have you believe.
Saul van Stapele- - In your book you write: One thing I never try to do is criticize black leadership.
CHUCK D-I do try not to, I tried real hard not to criticize black leadership. I want to show there is some kind of solidarity. It is a difficult job to lead people that never had real leadership.
Saul van Stapele- - Is Obamas form of appeasement the revolution that is needed?
CHUCK D-Yes it is, revolution means change, we cant have the same thing all the time. Its about younger people. It is unfair for me to give my personal demands to the space of younger people. It is a different set of change then when we made It Takes, because it is a different set of circumstances. The Berlin wall was up, the world was choosing sides in US versus the Soviet Union, Mandela was in prison, white South-Africans ruled South-Africa, Reagan was president, Bush the father was vice president, you had Thatcher in the UK. That means a different message, different measures are needed.
3. As we look for compensations, retribution, reparation, in somehow, someway, someday, I would also hope that many of us shave some dumb-assified, anti-lectual aspects weve adopted over the past decade and a half.
Saul van Stapele- - Consequence of commercial appeal of stereotype in hip-hop actions/behavior within community.
CHUCK D-Yep, people who have no control over themselves they watch images they can follow and copy.
Saul van Stapele- - Interviewed many rappers: either its reality or its entertainment.
CHUCK D-Rappers cant make a statement on a whole condition. They didnt do enough research. A lot of people make excuses; it is their job to rap. You already know the answer when you ask it, they can say whatever they want.
Saul van Stapele- - Famous quote hip-hop as black CNN, not anymore.
CHUCK D-That statement was made a long time ago. Does it hurt me to see the development of hip-hop? No, we dont control reality, it is what it is.
Saul van Stapele- - In past decade and a half PE less visible, is that related to that shift in public perception
CHUCK D-PE is less visible because the mainstream gonna come with Britney Spears. I feel every time we came close to mainstream, I just considered us lucky when we did. Itï¿½s just the coverage. Mainstream media is what it is. Before you were waiting one week to see a video on TV, now you can see it any time you like on YouTube. Download the music you think is hot. The unduplicated thing about PE has become the show. Like the Rolling Stones in rock, we present an event everywhere we go, any country, in the time we are visible. Our mainstream is travelling the planet. We are doing countless interviews like this, that is mainstream for us.
Saul van Stapele- - People start to write now with Obama as president rappers dont have the right to complain anymore, rappers lose subject
CHUCK D-I have a lot of different subjects. Now I am fighting for the empowerment of women in hip-hop in 2009, that is Fight The Power 2009. It is an important issue. How can hip-hop be big without the women. It is ridiculous. Thats why I asked you who those girls on the picture in your book were (r&b-group Dignity), if they rapped. What is the excuse people give here (for lack of women)?
Saul van Stapele- - That it is a macho culture, I guess
CHUCK D-It is not as macho as sport, sport got women.
Saul van Stapele- - Maybe the road to becoming a rapper, open mic, battle
CHUCK D-Thats a myth, a lot just start in the bedrooms and come up with a recording.
Saul van Stapele- - But that they have that image, might be a reason
CHUCK D-If its a myth its a perception, a perception we try to change.
Saul van Stapele- - Social and political issues
CHUCK D-My thing is when youre 30 how much can you still be sounding like a kid. A lot of rappers believe one thing and say another. And secondly there is to many soloists, they cant rock a crowd as much as a group. With saying one thing and meaning the other I mean they try to be noticed inside the pack but that doesnt get you noticed that just makes you the same as the pack. The Fresh Prince in his time got noticed because he was different.
Journalists check what comes to them from the majors. When journalists ask me Chuck, why is it there is no political hip-hop anymore, I say: did you check all the MySpace-pages. Did you? There are two million MySpace-pages; you cant check them all. Hip-hop comes from somewhere where, there is no documentation anymore from the beginnings. There are ten million artists; you need one million journalists. People make political songs on MySpace. Journalists say it is too much; their business is to keep up with it all, which is their problem.
Otherwise people can make a lot of songs about what is available and not available, when you are 32 you speak with an older mind. It is not about selling, nobody is buying records; it is about distributing of the art. We have the best distribution ever right now, the Internet. Can be overwhelming to people that dont get it.
You back the track; you find were the quotable:
Bring The Noise
Bass! How low can you go?
Saul van Stapele- - The beauty and power of a deep bass, to you
CHUCK D-It cuts trough the different sounds, with power.
Soul control, beat is the father of your rock n roll
Saul van Stapele- - As big and powerful hip-hop is, still considered a stepchild in rock n roll history.
CHUCK D-Hip-hop is the child of rock n roll, but rock n roll was fathered by the blues. You have to pay attention to the blues. A lot of soloists cant hold the attention of the crowd more than 20 minutes.
Saul van Stapele- - hip-hop viewed as something weird and different
CHUCK D-Because hip-hop is younger. That is the main reason. When we played the hall (Jaap Edenhal) here 21 years ago there were a couple of trendsetters already asking me questions. You may have been very young, how old? Okay, so when you were 13, there were people already trying to make a road for you doing what you do now.
Saul van Stapele- - PE might be biggest hip-hop band among rock fans why u think
CHUCK D-Because our music is very strong and loud and Flavor and I, we came out of the Run DMC School of hard yelling in a big place. Our voices cut trough.
Radio stations I question their blackness
Saul van Stapele- - What is your view on hip-hop media 20 now (mags, radio)
CHUCK D-The hip-hop media needs to be more thorough. There is a lot of laziness. Like your book is very thorough, there were probably a lot of haters. People who had the idea to do it, but you did it.
Dont Believe The Hype
I dont rhyme for the sake of riddlin
Saul van Stapele- - many rappers gave me that quote as no.1 inspiration
CHUCK D-You got to say something. Rap music as a party music is still a great thing, to get people some time away from their problems. Should put no pressure on rappers to come up with social solutions. But when you have a ten-year career you have to say something. Cant party at 40 like you did when you were 20. For me it has always been clear that in Holland you have black people coming from the South-American country of Surinam. When you dont know something like that, you dont know who you are talking to. Got to know.
False media, we dont need it do we
Saul van Stapele- - Probably the most media critical record in hip-hop history is also the one loved most by the media. A critic favorite.
CHUCK D-When It Takes came out, I was older and smarter than people writing about it, I was doing hip-hop journalism back in 1979. I had the advantage of being older, advanced.
Saul van Stapele- - it ranks the highest hip-hop record in many lists of favorite pop records of all time
CHUCK D-Its like with the Sgt. Peppers album by the Beatles, when it came out it took rock albums into another era of expectation. It Takes was the first hip-hop album with a lot of what was not expected from rappers, whether sonic or thought or rock or musicality. It was a different era, we set a template, sonic influence, and the whole way of doing hip-hop albums became different. Before that hip-hop was a single medium, albums were put out because the labels wanted it and were a collection of singles, not a body of story.
Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic
The loud sound pound makin brothers proud.
Saul van Stapele- - Unique musical style sonical influence up to now
CHUCK D-We had a sonical influence in different areas. Call it mash up today, dj culture, we are former djs, all of hip-hop came from dj culture. Today its not being done like what we did, different tempos, lotta hip-hop now with comfortable tempo to rap, so it becomes lazy and limiting. When tempos vary it is a harder challenge to rhyme. Having different topics and in a different sonic terrain. Lots of them look for the easy way out.
Separation of the dj from the rapper created a problem. The dj wanted to be experimental, but the rapper wanted to be comfortable. That is the biggest change in those twenty years. In the beginning the dj held the cards, he changed the speed and the rapper had to rise up to that. Recording changed all that. The rapper made demands and the dj and producer had to deliver. Before there was a live element, the dj changed the beat from 100 to 115 to 112 bpm and if you couldnt handle it they would take the mic away from you. That standard is forgotten, like looking at a prehistoric time. You got to look at the history. That is the reason you do it anyway.
Also you can feel you can begin to have a good conversation about hip-hop theory with good journalists like yourself. But rappers are not fit for interviews. They are not fit for performing. Just for recording. Anybody can go and make a recording. It has taken over the commitment, recording is only the advertisement of the act, it should be a performing art, and there lies the problem.
Caught Can I Get A Witness:
This is a sampling sport
Saul van Stapele- - A lot of hip-hop outdates quick vs. timelessness of PE
CHUCK D-What makes PE timeless is the ability to travel around the world and set a standard with our performances. What we stand for is knowledge of people and knowledge of hip-hop; we pay attention. PEs ability to come back is the fact that we traveled to 65 countries so when one is tired of us we go to another one and then 5 years later: we have missed you. You rather come then. Expectations can be high. A 13 year old, now 18, may have never seen Eminem but in their head he is the best. PE cant compare to anything, how long we can do it I look at the Rolling Stones and wonder how they do it. Operate at a high level at a high age, BB King
Saul van Stapele- - Is that something you see for yourself, at a high age
CHUCK D-For me I that is the one question you ask me that I cant answer. I do it now; you can do incredible shows for your time. In 1987 here in the hall was a twenty minute show, you can still repeat the technique, but you can not repeat that time, that impression.
Saul van Stapele- - 1000s of years, when archeologists dig up It Takes A Nation what will it tell them about our time?
CHUCK D-It will show them a different point of view compared to the news archives of that time, an alternative cultural point of view.
Saul van Stapele- - And it if is the only source they can find
CHUCK D-Then they will have a good read on a black mind at the time. There was a clear difference between second and first world then, an actor as a president, it is unimaginable for now.
Saul van Stapele- - Where do you see hip-hop moving in the near future
CHUCK D-Hip-hop is always moving along with the time and moving via technology. DJs can carry their whole record collection in the palm of their hand now. Society is constantly influenced by cultural changes, we should just pay attention.