Professor Griff's 'Soul' -ful Solo Effort

Professor Griff has something to say. And Public Enemy's Minister of Information goes on record Sept. 11 with "And the Word Became Flesh" (The Right Stuff/EMI), his first new solo project since 1998's

Professor Griff has something to say. And Public Enemy's Minister of Information goes on record Sept. 11 with his first new solo project since 1998's "Blood of the Profit."

"And the Word Became Flesh" (The Right Stuff/EMI) is set against a rhythmic panorama of R&B and jazz grooves. The 24-track, four-skit set represents 15 years of previously recorded poetry from Griff's four earlier solo albums, as well as his work with Public Enemy. The resulting mix of words and music is something Griff (aka Richard Griffin) has christened "poetical soul."

"This art form has been around for a while, but up until recently people haven't been paying attention to it," says the rapper, who also doubles as host of the spoken-word/poetry program "Poetical Tonguez" heard on "But a lot of songwriters are poets: Many R&B songs start as poems in a notebook. I'm just trying to bring this art form to the forefront, to make people understand there is a place for poetical soul."

Among the updated, digitally re-recorded songs are "R.A.P. (Real African People), Pt. I & II" (from his 1990 solo debut "Pawns in the Game"), "Black Beauty & the Bitch" (from "Blood of the Profit"), and "Sudden Death" (from Public's Enemy's 1997 soundtrack to "He Got Game").

"This is a re-introduction to important elements of Griff that people missed the first time," says Shawn Carter, who served as the album's project coordinator. "Hopefully it will get them to go back and check out his earlier albums."

In addition to guest appearances by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D and the Last Poets' Umar Bin Hassan, as well as such up-and-coming artists as Dei Dee Deionne, Uno the Prophet, and Sphinx, the new project sports three new tracks that showcase Griff's biting social commentary. "Hypocrites" -- which borrows a loop from featured music in the documentary "The Gospel According to Al Green" -- knocks record labels' emphasis on the bottom line instead of their artists, while "European on Me" tackles the subject of 21st-century technological slavery. "T.H.I.N.K." incorporates a hook from Little Anthony & the Imperials' 1965 R&B hit "Goin' Out of My Head" to underscore its life-is-tough theme.

"I didn't want to mentally exhaust people [about issues], so that's why I brought in other musicians and artists," recalls the Atlanta-based Griff. "Then I let them do what they wanted to do. I just tried to capture a positive energy and vibe.

"However, I still want people to realize there are issues that need to be talked about, open up the lines of communication," he adds. "It's 2001, and we're still dealing with the same issues. For instance, a track like 'A.I.D.S. (Africans in Deep Sh*t)' is about a global political issue that needs to be discussed."

Both Griff and Carter admit that one line of communication will be difficult to open up: radio. "We know radio is just not going to grab us," Carter says. "So we have to go on the underground, use word-of-mouth; grab the mature audience in cafes and open-mike sessions."

Tom Cartwright, VP of product development at The Right Stuff, agrees. "Radio isn't our main avenue of attack," he says. "The ideal is to get Griff in coffeehouses, record stores, and clubs that stage poetry readings." A tour still in the preliminary planning stages, tentatively titled Sounds of Truth, will encompass six to 10 cities.

While promoting his solo project, Griff is also in the studio with Public Enemy recording the group's new album due later this year on Internet-based label Slam Jamz. After joining the pioneering rap outfit upon its 1982 inception, Griff was ousted soon after making what were deemed as anti-Semitic comments in a 1989 Washington Post interview. After pursuing a solo career, he rejoined the group as a full-time member in 1997.

Asked to assess today's rap scene, Griff questions artists' motives. "I'd like to take the money equation out of it and ask artists, 'Do you really like what you're doing in making some of these songs? What does it do for your heart, head, and soul? What do you get out of it?' Hip-hop today goes right through your soul to your pocket.

"I just hope this album sparks other spoken-word artists," he adds. "I want to hear from the sisters. I'm sure they have something to say."