Chuck D Talks Rock Hall Induction, 2 Chainz, And Challenging Hip-Hop’s Status Quo


With the recent induction of hip-hop legends Public Enemy ( into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Chuck D, the outspoken frontman of the politically-charged group, sat down with VIBE for an unfiltered, barebones interview. Here, the Rhyme Animal, in his own words, discusses P.E. joining the likes of the late disco-pop icon Donna Summers and influential prog-rock trio Rush into the pantheon of music royalty, his views on 2 Chainz and today’s mainstream rap star making machine, and how the iconic MC and businessman is changing the game with his groundbreaking Hip-Hop Gods tour.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

Being inducted [into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] makes me feel honored. But I think Public Enemy is already revered around the world. We are revered in the United States and we have been revered among other genres of music. It’s just the hip-hop media that is on some, “We don’t know this shit.” [laughs] As music writers…how stupid can you be? When it comes to live performance I was taught by the best…artists like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh and Anthrax. So I don’t care who somebody gets on the stage…forget about it. Some people who are writers about hip-hop and people that blog were like, “I don’t know about [Public Enemy] being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…they only had about two or three big records.” And I’m like, “Are you stupid? We are not judged by fucking records.”

Public Enemy is judged by making a song that you may not like and making you like it without radio beating you over the head. I don’t brag on myself. This is my team. Flavor Flav is not a fucking joke…he’s one of the best live performers in hip-hop…you can get Yeezy, Jeezy or whoever. Flav created the hypeman role; he can literally play any instrument and he moves the crowd. People might get it twisted because they saw him in a couple of television shows, but that’s his day job.

What the fuck I care about some rock people [saying hip-hop doesn’t belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]? Tell them to put their best band on a stage and put them next to Public Enemy and they will see. What are they going to do better than us? I’m influenced by people like Metallica who don’t give a damn about what they say or do. When they come in, get the fuck out the way…their aim is to make you scared. Not with this forced trauma and bullshit…they scare you with the standard of their performance. That’s the world P.E. is in. Public Enemy is not in the world of what kind of car we are driving to the arena or having an issue of some silly beef with another rapper. That’s some stupid 8th grade shit. I’m at an age that if I can’t teach I shouldn’t even open up my mouth and speak. If I’m going to be onstage my aim is to leave you awestruck like, “I can’t even understand how somebody can do that.”

I’ve toured all around the world. But the way that hip-hop has been treated around this country, and classic hip-hop at that, is atrocious. You really don’t hear people questioning, “Damn, what’s up with the negligence about it?” It doesn’t mean that today’s mainstream artists are not talented. They are. But the negligence comes in all those other areas. What hip-hop tour has gone from East to West in the last 10 years as of note? This is what I do. In order for me to come back into the United States and call my peers I just separate the classic artists away from the monstrosity that corporations have turned hip-hop into. It’s neglectful if the media doesn’t cover the artform from the top to the bottom equally and fairly.

I don’t blame 2 Chainz for being what he is. I blame the coverage of it like, Yo, who the fuck is covering this and for what? And for what reason? Because it’s a phenomenon? I’m like, “Great.” But there’s a classic circuit that records now, goes around the world, and they are doing things in the community. My job is to get them consolidated. That’s why we created the Hip-Hop Gods tour. A lot of artists have hit me up saying, “Look, can you show us how to do the Hip Hop Gods tour format?” I tell them that you gotta have 15 years under your belt. I got the idea from classic rock radio in the 70’s when they wanted to separate the Led Zeppelin’s from the Chuck Berry’s from the Boston’s and the Peter Frampton’s who were mainstream rock at the time. We are planning on doing four or five Hip Hop Gods tours a year of different terrains and different tier levels of artists. Touring is not a one-off thing.

I salute these artists that came on every night and performed. Schoolly D is a pioneer and amazing…one of the first hip-hop artists that owned his own record label. Monie Love, she has a show on SiriusXM going on its sixth year of Ladies First…she’s a groundbreaker. Wise Intelligence of Poor Righteous Teachers, X Clan, Son of Berzerk…these are people I happen to know. Awesome Dre, who actually pioneered recording in Detroit way before Eminem and Royce The 5’9”. They had to get it from somewhere.

I’m tired of these publications and blogs niggarizing these artists. All of these magazines like VIBE have to show a better respect towards the totality of hip-hop. That’s why I called the tour Hip-Hop Gods. Hip-hop’s structure seems to follow the wag. Somebody that is 38-years-old trying to cover somebody that is 22. Where does this fit? So I just told my peers, “Let me structure this.” You see today’s artists who get backed by corporations and who are backed by corporate radio all day and pimped by the same company and you talk to fans who go to these shows that’s always backed by a radio conglomerate. And when you ask them after coming to one of our shows, “How was that other concert at $115 a ticket?” And they would be like, “Um, it was alright…a lot of explosions.” That’s the artist’s fault that they are not managing that aspect of the art. This is performance art, and we have been straying away from it.

Fleetwood Mac is playing every single arena at 15,000 people. And they are not talking about being the no. 1 thing running around like the Rolling Stones are doing in their 50th anniversary year. So why does it have to be niggarized when it’s down to VIBE and other [urban media outlets]? That shit is unacceptable to me. I’m a big sports fan. We have nothing but brothers in the NBA, but David Stern is making sure that the NBA is not niggarized. If you are acting a fool off the court or you are cursing during a post or pre-game interview they will tell you, “You know what…you dishonor the game, you are getting fined.”

Fifty-three artists have hit me up about being on the next Hip-Hop Gods tour. It’s going to be different lineups…four or five rotating across the country at different times. And we are going to make the tour a two-week limit. We got something planned. Everything I do is classic. I’m looking to throw old school out of the window and put classic on every time you see an artist that is 15 years and more in the music industry. I don’t mind being called old as a person [laughs]. But when it comes to the brand of hip-hop these people should be revered as gods. If there is such thing as a rock god, then there’s such thing as a hip-hop god.—As Told To Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)