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Public Enemy’s Chuck D Talks Return to Def Jam, George Clinton, and Ferocious New Album

Chuck D
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Chuck D appears at The Launch of Chuck D's first solo art exhibition at Gallery 30 South on March 4, 2018 in Pasadena, Calif.

In the hour of need, Public Enemy returns to fight the power once more. And this time, they brought friends.

The hip-hop heavyweights drop their latest album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down, a call to arms loaded with collaborations.

Spanning 17 tracks, When The Grid Goes Down is a statement on these strange times, and the pandemic that’s brought the world to a screeching halt. Its special guests are the messengers.

“If we can’t use the music to show people that we can do things with the music, than what good is it, right?,” founding P.E. frontman Chuck D tells Billboard.

Look closer and you'll find some answers. “The question is in the title, which means beware of government tricks," the legendary hype man explains. "And the time and chaos of emergency.”

When The Grid Goes Down marks the Hall of Fame-inducted act’s return to Def Jam, and is their first album of new material since 2017's Nothing Is Quick in the Desert. The new set features the previously-released 2020 all-star remix of "Fight The Power" and the DJ Premier-produced Trump-bashing song "State of the Union (STFU)."

“Public Enemy has come back as a visitation,” Chuck D says of P.E.’s return to Def Jam. “The statement of Public Enemy and anything we do is always for other artists to be the best to explore themselves and for their artistry, and hopefully change the world or speak to the world.”

Flavor Flav was instrumental in the reunion. “He said, ‘listen I think we should do something with Def Jam' and he’s 50 per cent of the say-so," he told this reporter during a live-streamed interview for the All That Matters conference. "For years I spoke on building things online and independently, but in this situation he said, 'I think we need to do this for a couple of times,' and I had to pay attention to that. So here we are."

Released Friday morning (Sept. 25), When The Grid Goes Down features assists from Ice-T, the surviving members of Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C., Cypress Hill, George Clinton and many others.

“It’s a big kumbaya type of thing,” Chuck D quips. “We all came through the trenches together.” There's real strength in numbers. "Ringo Starr did a song when I was a kid called 'Get By With a Little Help from My Friends.' That’s pretty much what this is all about," he recounts.

And what did Parliament-Funkadelic legend George Clinton bring to the sessions?

“He’s the Uncle Guru. When people reach out to Uncle George, they look for his funk,” notes Chuck. “For me, I look at his funkosophy and also his vision. George Clinton is the past, present and the future all at once. He blessed us with that.”

Stream What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down in full below.