Chuck D Talks New Public Enemy Albums, Skid Row Festival Performance
While Public Enemy prepares to stir up some hype with a performance on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Chuck tells Billboard.com that the legendary hip-hop group will return in full force this year with two new studio albums.
"Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp," a new full-length produced with the help of longtime collaborator Gary G-Wiz, will be released in June, while a follow-up, "The Evil Empire of Everything," arrives in September. Chuck D describes the albums as "two concise statements that are connected in the same breath."
In the meantime, the rapper plans to address journalists on Sunday (Jan. 15) from one of the nation's poorest districts, a sliver of downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row. Chuck D says that he wants to expose the effects of America's housing crisis on this struggling district during a morning press conference at the Grammy Museum. "Skid Row has been called 'the dirty secret of L.A.' for, like, forever," he explained on the phone from his Atlanta home on Thursday. "And so, I'm gonna be loud about it."
Later that day the Operation: Skid Row street festival will benefit the Los Angeles Community Action Network (L.A. CAN), an organization assisting Central City East's homeless by providing low-income families with stable housing. The event will culminate with a Public Enemy performance that ushers in a milestone year for the group: this month marks 25 years since the release of its debut album, "Yo! Bum Rush the Show."
Chuck D says that this weekend's festival should help align rap music with public service, as well as leave behind American hip-hop's reputation as a vehicle for brands and blatant greed. Groups scheduled to join Public Enemy for Sunday's festival include X-Clan, Yo-Yo, and Freestyle Fellowship.
"[Outsiders] look at rap music and artists in hip-hop as being as elitist as the power structures that keep them down," he says. "You've got organizations in your city that are trying to say and do the right thing--who are practically invisible--fighting for some media time.
"What other place do I have? My place in hip-hop is not to be a tycoon, making trillions with a yacht. That's not my place. My place is maybe bringing people together and me being able to identify and illuminate a cause, and we'll make it comfortable for them to be themselves but say what they've really been wanting to say all along, you know, with my protection."
Later this year the group will qualify to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ranks with their Def Jam brethren, Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C., a potential honor that humbles Chuck D.
"We gotta work to get there," he said.