Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes from the Public Enemy Pitchfork Panel

This post is way overdue...

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion with Public Enemy (minus Flav and Terminator X) commemorating the 1988 release of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us back...
I say this with the full recognition that I'm a "hip-hop old fogey" but it feels like hip-hop was better then... I guess more accurately, hip-hop with political content was able to be commercially successful. Either way, It Takes a Nation... and the followup Fear of a Black Planet stand for me as high-water marks of hip-hop-with-a-message.

It was great to be a part of the audience. The members of PE were very open... it felt like we were all sitting in one of them's living room as they reminisced. I listened for a good 30 minutes before I realized I should probably take notes... (my comments in blue)

Hank Shocklee: Learned music by cataloging their dad's collection of 10,000 records
Hank Shocklee: Their dad wired their house for sound
Hank Shocklee: Worked in a record store

The PE "Man in cross-hairs" logo was lifted from Iron Maiden.

Chuck D: Yo Bum Rush the Show waited over a year for Def Jam to release it. (They were in line behind Run DMC and the Beastie Boys)

Chuck D/Hank Shocklee: They ran to the gate of the airport to get Russell Simmons to approve rebel without a pause. LONS previewed rebel w/o a pause. Great story of how Chuck chillout broke rebel... Chuck and Flav begging security guard to get record to Chuck Chillout, them getting back to their car and turning on the radio to hear the DJ playing the record!

Yo Bum Rush the Show, album speaks for itself
Chuck and Hank exemplify the artists vision at it's most razor-sharp (such as standing up to Rick Rubin to make sure Bring the Noise & Rebel w/o a Pause made it onto Nation of Millions)

Chuck D: "You gotta be wack to get good"

Hank Schocklee: "Cats (today) got too much studio time" His point was that constraints can sharpen one's art.

Harry Allen: PE's DJ roots informed their approach to making music

Hank Shocklee: 2 types of genious: 1) bring you something totally new 2) take the everyday and make you look at it in a completely different light

Lastly, the highlight for me was that I got to thank them directly for setting those high-water marks (I even got mentioned in New City's write-up of the panel... fun).

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