Chuck D On The Real Off The Record: Rap getting less and less relevant to today’s world
CHUCK D, RAPTAVIST, MEMBER OF PUBLIC ENEMY: Hey. What’s up? This is Chuck D, alright, On The Real Off The Record—the name of this segment for The Real News Network. And I’m here to actually, you know, give you a little bit of explanation on culture, also what’s happening, and the reasons why they happen in this world that we have, especially musically. And today I’m going to talk to a friend, a partner, but also somebody who’s been deeply entrenched into the hip hop world is one by the name of DJ Johnny Juice, also known as John Rosado. And I’m here with him today On The Real Off The Record. And I don’t know where I start with you other than the fact that, you know, hip hop is supposed to be the music of today. But at the same time, with the election of Barack Obama, you know, I’ve seen a lot of, you know, hands thrown in the air and respect for the Bruce Springsteens, who’s still relevant, to Bono, who actually comes out and says something about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, if you want to call it that, you know, what’s happening in the Middle East. And so it seems like other genres and other artists have been saying a whole lot about how the world and what the world is today, just like the old Temptations Ball of Confusion record. But, you know, I mean, when I get some kind of feedback from the rap world, it seems to be less and less on a relevant level. Why?
JOHNNY JUICE, PRODUCER AND TURNTABLIST: Well, unfortunately, rap, you know, has devolved into the “Me first. I’ve got to get mine.” You know. Actually, Rap is an American music in every way, ’cause America’s about the almighty dollar, and that’s what it’s about.
CHUCK D: So you’re saying rap reflected, you know, the Bush administration a little bit more than any other administration. I remember when rap was reflecting the Clinton administration, and it still was, you know, [sings a riff]
JOHNNY JUICE: No. But, in fact, it reflected the Clinton administration as far as superficially, but as far as culturally, it’s always been about “What can I do for myself?” And, you know, how can a rapper talk about something like the conflict in Palestine or the conflict anywhere, you know, the Bosnian conflict or something that is happening Darfur, or anything like that when they don’t even know what’s happening outside their five-block radius in Brooklyn.
CHUCK D: Yeah. Well, you know, they talk about Detroit being, like, maybe, what? Thirty percent vacant? I’m pretty sure Detroit rappers come out of there. Why wouldn’t they talk about, you know, the vacancies in Detroit, all the ill that’s going on in Detroit, in Michigan? And, you know, where’s the Michael Moore of the hip hop world today?
JOHNNY JUICE: Well, again, like, hip hop cats, I mean, I think they see it as “How can I get paid from saying something like that?” You know, the first thing they do when they make a record is like, “Yo,” you know, “I’ve got to make money.” And then they try to develop some kind of structure around that concept, as opposed to real art, where you just, you know, say what you feel, and then somebody else finds a way to exploit it. It’s not the same thing. Now people are trying to exploit something they haven’t even done yet.
CHUCK D: Mm. Well, when they talk about Jay-Z, you know, one of the videos that he shot, I think, a year and a half ago, he was, like, saying that, you know, he kind of, like, toasts to the Euro instead of the American dollar, and they said that had some kind of, like, resonation across, I guess, the financial landscape of a crumbling dollar in America last year. I mean, what do you have to say to that?
JOHNNY JUICE: Well, you know, you recognize that. And maybe I would recognize something like that. Ninety-nine percent of the people who ain’t got no problems are not recognizing that.
CHUCK D: No problems like what? Mo’ money, mo’ problems? Or no money, no problems?
JOHNNY JUICE: No, I got ninety-nine problems, but you-know-what ain’t one.
CHUCK D: Oh, okay.
JOHNNY JUICE: So I’m just saying, you know, they’re not paying attention to that. They probably glanced over that. I think the only thing that most rappers got out of that was: “Yeah, son, Euros.” Okay, Euros what? Do they even know that the dollar is getting weaker? Do they know anything about, you know, money transfers? Have they even been outside of their own state, much less outside of the country? It doesn’t affect them because they don’t understand it.
CHUCK D: So you’re saying that, alright, well, now, with the whole, you know, Obama enthusiasm or Obama nation, how does one mix that with, you know, like, maybe the incident I heard that had Jay-Z and Young Jeezy coming out and say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s our president. Back up, B.” You know, “That’s my nig.” You know what I’m saying? How does that even mix? And then also you’ve got the situation that a company wants to exploit the people, meaning they want to get money out of the people, of their enthusiasm of the weekend, so you’ve got the release of the Notorious B.I.G. movie, and you’ve got the inauguration of Barack Obama. I mean, how does it fit? Is this supposed to be something that we take everything in stride? I mean, is that diversity? Or is it balanced? I mean, you tell me.
JOHNNY JUICE: It’s neither. It’s the same old same-old. You’ve just got somebody with a different color on top. Does that matter? The structure is still the same. It’s still a two-party organization. There’s still, you know, a whole bunch of voices that haven’t been heard. I mean, you know, I was talking to Rosa Clemente recently, and I was mentioning it to some other cats, and, you know, she was just voicing her displeasure—with a lot of things, obviously. You know, I don’t think anybody even knows that she was running. You know. I mean—.
CHUCK D: That’s a problem though, there, because, you know, isn’t, you know, the TV1s and the BETs supposed to at least mention, you know, what else is going on in the community?
JOHNNY JUICE: But what else is going on in the community? We got the attention with Barack Obama. There he goes. There go our key to advertising dollars. Now we can advertise that new McDonald’s commercial that has the dope beat in the background that’ll make these cats go out and buy a whole bunch of Happy Meals. You know, it’s all about “How can we sell something to these people?” And we can only sell it when we get them interested. How do we get them interested? Well, they’re interested there’s a black man running for president. There was also two women running for president and vice president that happened to be running on a real hip hop platform that nobody gave a crap about.
CHUCK D: Well, you know, do you feel like sometimes—in Rosa Clemente’s case, you know, she represents, you know, a black and a Latino side. But do you notice that there’s something they’re trying to exploit, the black and Latino wedge, and even wedge the two sides further apart? ‘Cause it seems like—you know, it seems like there are growing differences between the two, and somebody’s wedging some sort of, like, political juxtaposition against it.
JOHNNY JUICE: That’s always happening.
CHUCK D: And especially in hip hop, where, you know, Bambaataa comes out of the Bronx, wears black and brown equal.
JOHNNY JUICE: Yeah, well, that’s always happened. It’s always happened in this country, because, you know, the best way to keep people from actually forming and socializing and making these kind of networking and these connections is by keeping them apart. You know, the brown and the black struggle, as always, has been, you know, very similar and followed parallel roots, you know, from the Young Lords and the Black Panthers. And there was even a white political group that ran with the Young Lords and the Black Panthers that very seldom gets any mention. So there was a lot of people that had the same struggle and the same kind of problems and trying to come to the same conclusion, you know, but it would never happen, because the government plays each other against everybody. It helps them maintain their control.
CHUCK D: What is the hip hop nation today? Who is the hip hop nation? And how do they happen to get the information that’s going to help them? I mean, what do you see in the near future, especially in this next four years? Because, really, as everybody’s talking about economic difficulties, you know, the community’s been having economic difficulties all decade long. And this is just, you know, it happened to be that white folks are now losing their money. Now, all of a sudden, now this becomes something that—does hip hop answer to that? And how do people of the hip hop generation, you know, get out of the bling and the shine and to dealing with their realities?
JOHNNY JUICE: Well, you just mentioned a very big word, “realities.” You know, people haven’t delved into the reality of any of this since maybe the late ’70s, early ’80s. You know, at one time, rappers kept talking about how hard they had it, but they didn’t talk about it with a pride; they talked about it as a way of, you know, bringing it out and trying to find a way to overcome it. You know. But everybody knew we had to have hot water, or, “Damn,” you know, “I didn’t get my paycheck this week.” Now there’s a shame that’s involved in talking about those things. So people don’t want to mention how bad they have it; they want to mention money they have, even though they have no money; they want to mention how they’re popping bottles, even though they can’t afford to get in the club that night. You know, the economy’s bad, everybody knows it, and there’s only so long a facade can last before somebody says, “Yo,” you know, “you’re all full of crap, and that’s got to stop.” Unfortunately, you know, we haven’t reached the full rock bottom yet as a people. We will, but, unfortunately, when that happens, this usually involves, you know, bars and chains around your arms and legs. You know. And that’s why you have these people that come out of jail, all of a sudden they find religion, or they find God, or they find some redeeming, you know, way of living the rest of their lives. You know, why can’t you find that before you get to the point where you’re in jail, or somebody you know gets killed, or, unfortunately, you get killed? You know, it’s always a too-late-scenario thing; it’s always too late. And by that time you’re trying to convince your boys, they’re not trying to listen until they get into that situation.
CHUCK D: We’ve got more talk with the profound DJ Johnny “Juice” Rosado when we return On The Real Off The Record on The Real News Network. Alright? Stay tuned. Keep it locked.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.