Rap music, once feared by long-haired rockers, should now take pride of place in the US Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, with Public Enemy the next to be inducted, the band’s leader Chuck D has argued.
Entry into the Cleveland Rock museum, opened in 1986, is considered a major honour by musicians. Chuck Berry and Ray Charles were the first inductees.
The televised ceremony features live performances and special guest tributes. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were honoured when they met the eligibility criteria – artists must prove they have stood the test of time by being nominated 25 years after their first release.
A trickle of rap pioneers have been approved, with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Run DMC, invited to join. Public Enemy, the militant rap group whose atonal soundtracks and black power politics shocked listeners in the late 80s, qualify for consideration next year.
“It’s not a shoo-in but we want to be there,” Chuck D told The Independent. “Public Enemy is one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. We’ve always put our attention towards our live performance.”
If the band, famed for hits including Fight The Power, is honoured, they will use the televised event as a platform for their uncompromising views. “If we get included, then we will have something to say,” D promises.
Public Enemy’s albums It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear Of A Black Planet are considered hip-hop landmarks. Chuck D joins Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Ice Cube and other hip-hop luminaries in a big-screen documentary about the history of rap, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, directed by Ice-T.
The film receives a UK premiere tonight at Hammersmith Apollo, followed by a live performance from Chuck D and Ice-T. “This is the finally the whole story on screen,” Chuck D. “Only Ice-T could have pulled it all together by approaching all the rappers to take part.”
He praised the film’s English producer Paul Toogood. “There was a British crew behind the film. It’s like when it took the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to rediscover Muddy Waters and the great Mississippi delta blues players way back.”
Although the Public Enemy frontman, 51, respects Jay-Z and Kanye West, he has a dig at the materialistic lifestyle hymned by rap’s biggest stars’ recent songs and videos. “Kanye and Jay-Z did the album, Watch The Throne. Public Enemy has a song called Watch The Thrown on our new album (Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp).What’s Watch The Throne all about? Who’s gonna look out for the people thrown under the tracks?”
Public Enemy will continue to “fight for the balanced art projection of the real side of life as opposed to the fantasy world which most likely cannot be attained by many. With the USA embedded into a recession, black folk are mired in a depression.”
The rapper recently tweeted: “My place in HipHop is not to be some tycoon, making $$ with a yacht; my place is bringing artists together identify and illuminate a cause.”
President Obama also gets a name-check on a song, Run Till Its Dark. “I want to say to Obama in our song, to run till he’s Black again. I want him to be President. He’s a good man working in a bad government. Once the symbolic element fades, I always said it would be a two-term job.”
Chuck D also weighed in on the debate sparked in the urban music world by the decision of rising star Frank Ocean to disclose his sexuality. “I commend him for making that statement. But I’m asking Frank how much of that are you actually going to put in your songs?”
D says this is not a first in the notoriously macho world of hip-hop. “Frank Ocean is an R&B singer even though he associates with the Odd Future rap collective and there’s been plenty of R&B singers who have made that statement before from the 70s and even explored gay relationships in their songs, however vaguely.
“In hip-hop there have been plenty of female MCs who have said they are bisexual but they are discounted in this debate. That’s because that image of a bisexual female rapper is something we (men) want all women to be.”
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap is released in UK cinemas on Friday July 19. The Hammersmith Apollo event will be screened as a simulcast across cinemas nationwide.
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