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Public Enemy’s Chuck D. remains Hip Hop’s greatest ambassador thanks to his relentless desire to inspire positive action and ultimately utilizing music as a vehicle to promote social justice. His ardent lyricism has redefined the genre he celebrates with his new book, This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History. For over 40 years the genre has been intensely scrutinized and dismissed as mere fad or wrongfully targeted as the soundtrack for teenage violence. This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History is Chuck’s chronological history lesson of music’s global impact and its evolution toward a strong future.“I felt it was absolutely necessary to create this book without executives approaching it as a mere business product. Curating art is a challenge and rap and hip-hop are such a major force that I wanted to be sure everyone was properly represented,” said Chuck.
Readers begin with August 11, 1973, Hip-Hop’s Year Zero. DJ Kool Herc shared his turntable experiments at a Bronx party where the audience was captivated by what is now commonly called ‘the break’, a technique isolating 60’s and 70’s rhythms and looping them to ultimately create a new sound. Those in attendance recall Herc’s friend Coke La Rock rhyming along to the music, perhaps marking the debut of live rap improvisation. Winter of 1973 served as a watershed moment for the burgeoning genre as Afrika Bambaataa countered the misconception that the music was created exclusively for disenfranchised youth. His Universal Zulu Nation collective aimed to redirect gang members to explore creative mediums as an opportunity to turn their lives around and by the 1980’s, branches formed in the UK, Japan, France, Australia, and South Korea.
“Rap and hip-hop always had a lot to say and back then social climates dictated what artists wrote. It did have a backing large enough at that point to call out injustices that were covered up by Disco, which focused more on partying. There was a climate of people suffering and I think artists made a supreme effort at that time to be different than stereotypes,” stated Chuck.
Critics continued to target the genre for allegedly glorifying drugs and violence, two dominant themes of the gangsta rap explosion of the 90’s but Chuck refuses to allow positive messages to fall by the wayside. Making it his duty to highlight artists that may still be obscure, Chuck counters critics by chronicling anti-drug message music like 1983’s White Lines by Melle Mel. The drug epidemic undeniably impacted inner city youth and activists maintain officials purposely ignored issues plaguing communities. Almost a decade later cinema depicted the addiction and violence plaguing American youth with films such as Boyz n’ the Hood and New Jack City. Chuck recalled the tumultuous time of artists crossing over to cinema and the rise of hip-hop soundtracks.
“Before you had actors and actresses trying to play the parts and not coming across authentic. In those two particular films you had self-branded artists basically playing themselves and it had an impact. When Public Enemy chose to write Burn Hollywood, Burn we wanted to make the industry accountable for its often negative portrayal of people and cultures,” affirmed Chuck.
This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History serves as a much-needed reminder that the genre has made a positive global impact, much like Public Enemy. In celebration of over three decades of hip-hop activism and their recent induction to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the group offered free downloads of their new record, Nothing Is Quick In The Desert. Chuck has remained steadfast against intense backlash and continues spreading his politically charged messages with Prophets Of Rage; featuring members of the 90’s group Rage Against The Machine. The group has undertaken ambitious international tour schedules to promote political consciousness and unity.
“It was Tom Morello’s idea to bring everyone together. I feel B-Real brings it to a whole new level when performing and I know the dynamics between emcees, one becoming alpha while the other turns beta. DJ Lord is unbelievable and we learned after playing to over 3 million people last year that people who thought they did not have things in common, including political beliefs could come together because of this music and learn and grow together,” stated Chuck.This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History is available thru Black Dog & Leventhal.
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