Chuck D Champions All-Female Rap Quartet
By Gail Mitchell
LOS ANGELES (Oct. 1) - Something is off-kilter in the rap game. And Chuck D is determined to balance the creative scales.
"There are too many individuals and not enough groups," the Public Enemy frontman told Billboard during a visit to the trade publication's Los Angeles office. "Many of these cats (solo rappers) aren't as good as they think and say they are. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect the genre to stay vibrant."
Chuck D seeks to make good on that declaration -- and also raise females' rap profile -- with the all-woman rap act Crew Grrl Order. "B Grrl Stance," the quartet's debut on Chuck D's indie label SLAMjamz, is due Nov. 1.
The foursome came together when Lady Payn and drummer/DJ Sammi Grrl (both from Atlanta) and Retina and Ms. Ebonee (both from Charlotte, N.C.) joined forces after stints in separate groups working with Chuck D.
"I told them to convince me," he said. "I can't stand male-designed, cookie-cutter female situations. These ladies can rap, write, produce ... this group does the whole nine yards."
Also due on the label is the Wu-Tang Clan-vibed HEETmob ("They From Where?"). Representing the group dynamic at SLAMjamz as well: recent releases by virtual rap group the Impossebulls ("Slave Education"), retro hip-hop trio Most Hi-Fi ("Everything's Gonna Be Alright") and rap duo Dirty North ("Conflict Re'Soul'ution").
But rap isn't the only game for 5-year-old SLAMjamz. President Daniel Lugo oversees a label that dabbles in R&B/soul (Kyle Jason aka "the Insane Soul Machine"), rock (the Scallions, 7th Octave), new jazz (Kasuf & the Mazz Muvement, PE backing band the BaNNed), gospel (the HeavenOcopters) and comedy (Cory "Zooman" Miller).
Releasing half of its 30 artists through traditional retail and the other half digitally, SLAMjamz is distributed domestically by Haw River, N.C.-based Redeye and globally by Paris-based Nocturne. The label also releases 10 CD/DVD packages a year and has an in-house film and music-video production company, Command Films.
"I'm having the best time," said Chuck D, who likened running SLAMjamz to the pioneering efforts of such labels as Motown, Stax and Def Jam.
"We started small and are working up to what's gold or platinum for us."
In the meantime, Public Enemy is preparing for the Nov. 1 release of its album "Beats and Places," featuring new and unreleased tracks. The group will embark on its 55th tour Oct. 1-14 in Europe and the United Kingdom.
Chuck and crew already are gearing up for the act's 20th anniversary next year. Coming next spring/summer: a new album with the intriguing -- and extra-long -- title, "How Do You Sell Soul to a Souless People Who Sold Their Soul?"