Earlier today, Public Enemy’s Chuck D made a special appearance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
to talk about his career. For his half-hour talk with DJ Rachel Steele, Chuck D brought Jahi, a Cleveland native who tours with the Public Enemy-related act PE 2.0, and producer David "C-Doc" Snyder on stage with him.
In town to shoot video clips for an upcoming project that includes the new LeBron James school, Chuck D said he always enjoys coming to Ohio.
“Ohio has always been a center point for me," he said. "It's where I worked with some of the most talented people."
Chuck D recalled wanting to be a sportscaster when he was growing up in Long Island. “My play-by-play was really tight,” he said, citing former Cavs announcer Joe Tait as an inspiration.
After the music bug bit him in the late '70s, Chuck D said he devoted his energy to putting together Public Enemy. He said it was thanks to “a little crack in the door” and the help of producer Rick Rubin that he was able to help clear the way for other hip-hop acts to rise to prominence. He also spoke about the importance of PE hype man Flavor Flav, whom he said was a "21st century" performer.
“Innovation is always jarring when you come in with something totally new,” Chuck D said when asked about Flavor Flav. “When he remembers he’s the side man, that’s when he’s at his best.”
Jahi spoke about meeting Chuck D for the first time years ago at the Rock Hall and working with Chuck D in PE 2.0.
“It Takes a Nation of Millions
was an important album because it became the soundtrack to our lives and set off the generation of consciousness,” said Jahi.
When Steele asked the guys about the state of hip-hop today, Snyder, who cited the Los Angeles-based People Under the Stairs as one of his favorite acts, said hip-hop is thriving.
“There’s so much great hip-hop out there," he said. "You just have to look for it. You can’t rely on what pop radio is going to play. You can find good stuff; you have just have to go look for it.”
Jahi emphasized the point that hip-hop is a “world culture” and that “hip-hop is alive and well” around the globe.
“The largest groups of b-boys and b-girls are in Germany and Korea and Japan,” he said. “We’re not talking about a rap culture based on the Top 10 songs on Billboard but a world culture that can bring people together despite their socio-economic backgrounds. Diamonds aren’t on the surface. You have to dig to find the jewels of hip-hop.”
Toward the interview's end, Chuck D, who referred to fellow Rock Hall inductees Grandmaster Flash and the Beastie Boys as "scholars," said we need to learn how to be “culturally literate” and treat music with the same reverence that we treat sports.