Public Enemy In Concert At The Hard Rock Joint

Respect The History: A Conversation With ‘This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop’ Author Chuck D

Chuck D explains why he created 'This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History' and what he wants readers to take away from it.

The immense scope of Chuck D's influence on hip-hop is as unwavering as it is undeniable. As a founding member of Public Enemy, rap's most dangerously outspoken group, the emcee has used his platform for decades to speak out about social injustices that affect people of color at disproportionately higher rates. His other musical supergroup, Prophets of Rage, came together just last year and continues to use the elements of rap (in addition to rock) to address political issues with the same type of incendiary fervor.

In this instance, however, Chuck D is reveling in something that isn't as familiar to him: releasing a book. Chuck D Presents This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History came out just last week and in it, the legendary lyricist chronicles the genre from 1973 until present day, leaving not one event, artist or song left behind.

Chuck sat with VIBE briefly to talk about why it was time for him to immortalize the history of hip-hop.

VIBE: As a founding member of Public Enemy with a career spanning 30 years, and now as a crucial part of Prophets of Rage, you’re the literal embodiment of socially and politically charged hip-hop. How did you know it was time for you to use your status as a legend in the game to write about the history of it?
Chuck D: It was a long time coming. Ultimately, my goal and vision artistically in the form of rap music and hip hop has always been: how can I be of service? And with this book, it was how can I be of service to artists and play up their achievements when the music has always been looked down upon and the media continues to lend itself to the stereotyping?

Hip-hop has a lot of great things; this book could have easily been 3,000 pages long. I tried to do my best to eradicate negative urban myths that once upon a time floated to the top of magazine pages and blogs and papers and on the radio. Whatever happened in rap and hip-hop was categorized as a catastrophe. It was necessary to curate something that acknowledged and appreciated the art form as well as the process behind it.

I'm eager to hear how you juxtapose politics with hip-hop culture. As your book and your career prove, rap is influential, transcendent and powerful. But like Public Enemy warned us from the very first record, the people who make it are still suffering from institutional racism, discrimination, police brutality and poverty. How do you continue to express this message to your fans?
You have to be clear on two things: who you are and what you are trying to say. This book is very clear on just saying that there are a lot of accomplishments attained by people who have grown up with hip-hop, who have then grown with it and continue to grow older with it. They are still doing the music and the art—both should be upheld. When Eminem did the BET cypher, people kept asking me what I think. I believe he is one of the greatest emcees of all time, but it also showed that white people need to speak up, too.

No progress can be made if their ears are wide shut to the narrative of where black people are in this country, which is hard to ignore with the Black Lives Matter movement speaking so true to our reality. Having the platform of a book is so important because it freezes both time and images...making it different from other apparatuses we're used to. It's out of sight, out of mind when it's moving on you, but a book doesn't move on you. It stays still. We're trying to get the correct information out to people in the form of a foundation instead of a freestyle. Freestyles are great, but you can't freestyle facts.

Throughout the book, you use portraits of the artists you discuss and not actual photos of them. What was the reasoning behind that?
Some of the best books I've seen recently simply use the art of illustrators and the text of people who write. I just thought that this is art, it's part of rap music, it's part of rap's elements. I also wanted to encapsulate the creation of dance and graffiti from back in the day. Why not make it come full circle and have a team that doesn't come from a traditional art background work on this book? We worked with a virtual team of illustrators that could turn around a graphic in a quick second that's still crisp and dope. I wanted to combine the sights, the sounds and the style with the story and it was difficult to mix photos and illustrations the way I would have liked.

Is your book a counter to the monetization of hip-hop? It wasn't too long ago that Kendall and Kylie Jenner were putting Biggie's face on their t-shirt line, and that a white couple did that A, B to Jay Z book children's book. Is This Day In Rap a statement of what authenticity of the culture is supposed to be?
People think anybody can do it and yet [hip-hop] always comes with such negative connotations and circumstances. But when someone wins the lottery or saves a cat from a tree, there's no mention of them being an aspiring rapper the way there would be if they rob a gas station. It's always the lowest hanging, attention grabbing fruit. It's become typical to use black people's demise as a selling point. This book was important to me because you can celebrate these great accomplishments now and not have to wait for the worst thing to happen—that these people are still making music and art. I want hip-hop artists with longevity to be talked about the way The Rolling Stones or Earth, Wind and Fire are still being talked about.

But hip-hop and rap isn't something anyone can do at any time. Yes, you can contribute to it and do at a level where you can continue to grow. But people of The United States of America don't know the history of the genre. Whenever you take away people having their organic right to just be involved in an art and knowing what it's about, they then have to be taught the art and that's where commodification comes in. And really, the best corporate packaging wins.

What keeps you hopeful and optimistic about hip-hop?
This is what I do. I've been a professional at it for the last 31 years. I've played to millions and millions of people throughout my career, and I've played to millions and millions of people just in the last year with Prophets of Rage. I have this thing inside me that just wants to see it revered as much as possible.

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.


Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”


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There goes the neighborhood

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Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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VIBE / Nick Rice

Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

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