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Chuck D On The Real Off The Record

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CHUCK D, RAPTAVIST, MEMBER OF PUBLIC ENEMY: Chuck D here, along with the King of Rock, Mr. D.M.C. We are On The Real Off The Record here at The Real News Network. And, really, President Barack Obama has taken office to be the president of the United States for the next four years. People call it the highest position in the world. When you talk about, you know, everybody coming and paying attention, we’ve heard from everybody. But when you talk musically, you know, the names that stood out, people like Bruce Springsteen, U2—. Bono makes a conversation about “help Palestine.” You know, these people in rock, the legends in rock and roll and other forms of music, have a front and center stage of boldness and braveness to talk about, and also be anointed, like, and respected for who they are.

DARRYL “D.M.C.” MCDANIELS, MEMBER OF RUN D.M.C.: Right. And the rappers are punks.

CHUCK D: Rap music gets no respect, because they say, “Well, rappers really ain’t saying anything.” And a week before, Run-D.M.C. is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What is this missing link, and even black media or in media, from connecting the two to the point where, I mean, a D.M.C. and a Run could have been there, you know, invited to be along with the celebration? What is this missing link, man, that’s not anointing the heroes such as yourself and being revered, just as much as a Bruce Springsteen and a Bono, who sure enough know the accomplishments of Run-D.M.C.?

D.M.C.: That’s weird, because when elections started and Obama was running this campaign and everybody knew he was going to win, all the press people from all over the ages hit Tracy Mel, our publicist, and said, “This is”—I’m talking about journalists—”This is happening: Obama was only made possible because of what Run-D.M.C. did with hip hop when they did it.” So I was—that’s a big—don’t say that, don’t say that. And as I was—last couple of months, people kept saying it. They kept saying it. But it’s weird, because if you look at those rock-and-roll dudes, see, maybe it’s because the hip hop of the last 20 years ain’t saying nothing. “We don’t want those guys here, because they’re going to do this. So we can only expect this from them.” But if you look at John Lennon, if you look at Bob Dylan, if you look at [John] Fogerty, if you look at any of those rock-and-roll guys, whether it was in the ’60s, Vietnam War, they didn’t care what people thought about it; they wrote about what was going on in their communities. We are the voices of those people. It’s a shame that Run-D.M.C., Chuck D, KRS-One, Paris, we can only get on the radio, “Old School at Noon,” 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock in the day. Where are all the kids at? In school. But from 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock, what do you hear? Maybe there’s a conspiracy. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but maybe it’s because, like I said in the first segment, we let the value of what hip hop meant to the world, to the streets, to the generations, deteriorate because of those elements who really don’t care about the real purpose of our culture and our art form. You know, it’s a shame that hip hop doesn’t have the Bruce Springsteens and Dylans. We’ve been saying this already.

CHUCK D: Two-million-plus people in jail, and there’s a disproportionate amount of black males. And I’m going to narrow this down to the black male demographic for a second. In all those cities that were played by the KRS-Ones, the Tribe Call Quests, the Eric B / Rakims, the Run-D.M.C.’s, from the Columbus, Ohios, to the Wichita, Kansases, to the Sacramento, Californias, to the Floridas, there are black men who are 25 to 50 who were part of the hip hop nation. BET or TV1 or all these stations that are out there—who talks to these people? Well, let’s break it down to the men. Who talks to those men? ‘Cause, you know, Oprah might talk to women, and there’s a demographic of black women that might listen to—you know, that would check out Essence or listen to a segment on the radio, you know, because, you know, there’s this type of entertainer comes through. Patti LaBelle still has a voice that’s out there, and people like that.

D.M.C.: They’ll listen to Michael Baisdens and stuff on the radio.

CHUCK D: To that cat that sits down. And the cat might sit and listen to Michael Baisden—.

D.M.C.: Right, ’cause it’s the closest he can get to something—.

CHUCK D: Closest that they can get to—. You know, ’cause a white cat who is, like, let’s say, 55 years old, somebody in the age range of Steve Jobs, is going to look across and say, you know, “Alright,” you know, “Steven Tyler. Yeah, I can relate.”

D.M.C.: [inaudible] relate. For sure.

CHUCK D: And you know whatever he says,—

D.M.C.: Bono is always there.

CHUCK D: And the respect thing. What does the 37-year-old black dude, you know, he’s been working, he might have got laid off from the car plant, you know, he’s trying to come up, you know, a couple of his kids, like, in the 19, 20 zone or whatever, who talks to him? And at the same time, you know, there’s a 23- or 24-year-old cat coming up now who’s got a different mentality than [inaudible]

D.M.C.: [inaudible] once they listen to what this guy had to—. Right.

CHUCK D: Who talks to these people?

D.M.C.: It’s not like we don’t exist. We exist, and we probably are the majority too, but there’s no outlets for us to be heard, there’s no outlets for dialog, there’s no outlets for the music, unless we do it ourselves. There’s a lot of us who’ve been—we’ve been doing this, but we’re not being allowed to be heard. It’s like I always said: you know, I could go say this to the new generation, I could go tell the Jeezys and the Lil Waynes, you know, do what you do, but you need to be doing this. And people are saying they don’t need to do nothing. I mean, from a hip hop standpoint, they really need to be doing it. But they’re not going to listen to me. You know what I’m saying? So there’s no outlets for us. I want that. I’m coming home from work, I don’t want to hear the radio. But where is the topics of, you know, what Run-D.M.C., PE [Public Enemy], even Will Smith, that generation? There’s nothing for us. Who talks to us? There’s a lot of people that want to be talked to, there’s a lot of people that want to talk about these issues, but there’s no outlet for us. That’s why we’re sitting here trying to do this.

CHUCK D: What happens when the financial picture changes, when all of a sudden, you know, the people who used to sell, like, these umpteen amount of records, and all of a sudden it meant residuals, now all of a sudden they say that the record business is totally flipped upside down, people are not selling records, you know, what does an artist who might have had a 10-year career, and all of a sudden they used to sell records and now they don’t sell records, what does that artist do at this point? I mean, can management come in like the cavalry and save the day?

D.M.C.: No, we can’t fix it. You can’t fix it. You can’t. Like, a lot of those executives that lived, they were in an era, they’re over. They had their ride. A lot of those artists are just rappers with a lot of money. Like, I had—.

CHUCK D: Money disappears if you don’t actually making excitement.

D.M.C.: Oh, for sure. No, they’re sort of worried about it now. They’re like, “Man, I made a mistake for buying those three houses, I made a mistake for having that yacht, ’cause when it’s sitting there, you’ve got to pay for that.” Now, I have lawyers and managers, and even a couple of executives who just got in the game, saying, yo, playtime is over. That whole era is over. But there’s a difference. You know, a couple of journalists will say a lot of the rappers in the last ten years are just rich celebrities. Like, it started bugging me out when, wow, rap is getting looked at by the tabloids, and rap is being looked at by the gossip industry, and stuff like that. But there was a time where, you know, when you see Chuck, or let’s say that you see Big Daddy Kane, or you see Guru, or you see a Freddie Foxxx, people start to go, “Wow. Yo, man, you don’t know what your music did to me.” But now it’s like, “Wow. He’s dating such and such. Whoa, he got a lot of money.” They don’t even talk about life. You know, even the gangsta rapper would make a record. You know, people will talk about who’s really street and who’s really gangsta, who has the essence. They forget about Scarface, “Mind Playing Tricks on You.” I don’t like none of the rap, the gangsters, and “I’m pushing this” and “I’m the big man” and “I’m the boss” and all that. That’s all that don’t get my attention. But when I hear Scarface say, “I’m alone in a room, staring. At night I can’t sleep. I toss and turn.” That’s gangsta to me, because he’s talking from the perspective of our lives. I don’t need to hear how many drugs you sold, how many people you kill, ’cause I can pick up USA Today and see that. I can pick up The Daily News and see six, you know, [inaudible]. But it was inspiring to hear the people from the community, those three elements, those three or four elements, meaning with every neighborhood, whether it’s Beverly Hills or whether it’s the ghetto, there’s Chino, Dino, and Nino, who you know are going to go to jail just like their father before them. But there’s also Richard, who—you know, he’s going to go to Harvard. There’s also John. Oh, he’s going to be the next Dwyane Wade. There’s that rapper guy. But then there’s also the regular guy that’s just going to drive the bus for 50 years, get his pension, and live a creative life. Those issues, those issues, ideas, and concepts, is what separated hip hop from everything else. But it was also [inaudible] just like I said. The Beatles were big pop successes, but when they got to the point where they knew they had power, look what John Lennon did. Look at what Dylan did. You know what I’m saying? So who’s speaking for these people? There’s a lot of voices for these people. But now it’s time for these voices to be heard. Obama isn’t new. You know, I tell people, yo, we can celebrate Obama all we want, but he ain’t no babysitter. And the guys in the hood look at me like, “[inaudible] What do you mean by that?” Just because he there doesn’t mean these conditions is going to change. But rap music was able to change those conditions. You know, it wasn’t just like—I tell the young kids, I wasn’t just [inaudible] 16 to impress my 16-year-old friend. We had legislators, lawmakers, journalists, writers, and politicians, and psychologists going, “Do you hear what these young people in this neighborhood with nothing—?” It wasn’t just about how much money they was making. They would always look at us and say, “Do you see and hear what we are saying and doing?” That’s what’s missing. The problem is this generation, you know, it’s a waste of time for me to go try to tell 50 and Ja Rule, make up friends, and stuff like that. For them to have change, they’re going to [inaudible] You—listen, I was D.M.C. You know, I’m the king of rock, positive rapper [inaudible] but I was running around drinking and smoking. But when I looked to the left, I had PE saying that; I look to the right, and I heard KRS saying that; I looked to the back, I got Rakim over there, I got EPMD over there. We had the whole circumference of the existence we were living being discussed through our music. That’s not happening right now. So maybe they’ve got to think twice. “Okay, we’ll bring these guys here, but we ain’t going to let them say anything.” I did a party on the 18th for the inauguration. It was me, Ludacris, and Nelly was hosting it. I went in there and did, like, seven records, a couple of new records, and left, and all those people who had never seen Run-D.M.C. live came to me and said, “Yo, that was the best performance I ever seen.” And all I did was just Tricky. I went up there. I said, “Yo, we’re going to take a page from how the Zulu Nation used to do it before rap records was on records.” You know, [inaudible] they’re drunk or whatever, but they’re looking like this. And I was, like, “Remember when Busy Bee said, ‘What’s the name of this nation? Zulu. Now, who’s going to get on down?’” I said, “What’s the name”—I had to teach them. I said, “What’s the name of our president? Barack. Now tell me who’s in the White House. Obama, Obama. Keep going. Yo, what’s the name of my—?” And these people were, like, amazed. You know what I’m saying? Even though what we do is new, it’s old to us.

CHUCK D: They shouldn’t be amazed, and at the same time [inaudible]

D.M.C.: Right! Right!

CHUCK D: Well, we’ll be back with the king of rock, from the Beatles of rap, Run-D.M.C., when we return On The Real Off The Record. And check out this next segment. So you’d better stay tuned.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Carlton Douglas Ridenhour (born August 1, 1960 in Roosevelt, New York), better known by his stage name, Chuck D, is an American rapper, author, and producer. He helped create politically and socially conscious rap music in the late 1980s as the leader of the rap group, Public Enemy.