By letting rap artist Paris write the lyrics and record the music for Public Enemy’s latest album, “Rebirth of a Nation,” the entire project was a successful exercise in creativity, Chuck D tells Billboard.com.
“When Paris approached me about doing something together, what manifested out of that was me saying, ‘Let’s take on a challenge that not only you would do the music for but also write the lyrics and put together a [Public Enemy] album as you see it in your mind,” Chuck D says. “Be Prince or be Kanye West on this one. It has an entirely different feel that is West Coastal, which deals a little bit more in the element of music and funk, as opposed to just beats.”
At the time “Rebirth of a Nation” was recorded last year, Public Enemy already had two other albums in the mix. “New Whirl Odor” was released last summer on Chuck D’s Slam Jamz imprint, while another Slam Jamz album, “How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who’ve Sold Their Soul,” is roughly 75 percent completed and slated for a spring 2007 street date.
A late summer tour is in the works, as is a May 7 show in New York that will be hosted by Ice-T.
Chuck D remains busy with his radio shows on Air America and AOL as well as the day-to-day operation of Slam Jamz. In fact, Public Enemy’s spring Australian tour was pulled due to the artist’s label commitments.
“My thing is developing a small, independent label that could introduce healthy urban music for the masses,” Chuck D says. “We call it HUM. I just think when I look at the majors’ dominance, I have to look at it the same way a ballplayer looks at somebody on steroids. The majors are all on steroids and [on] my label, my guys try to hit it out of the park as a regular six-foot, 180-pounder.”
To some extent, the outspoken Public Enemy remains an anomaly in a hip-hop world often dominated by style. “Myself and Flavor [Flav], yes, we’re very publicly visible in different things and we relish the fact that when we come together, like the Rolling Stones, we can present an event that is still based on the aesthetics of performance and those elements of hip-hop that are really important,” Chuck D says. “And if companies are going to reduce rap music into just something that sells or doesn’t sell, then it’s an art form that’s in jeopardy.”