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The Rhythm, the Rebel

chuck d
(Foto © Get Ahead)

Immer wenn man es am wenigsten erwartet meldet sich Charles, unser Mann aus Übersee, mit einem seiner Berichte. Dieses Mal zieht er seinen Hut vor Chuck D. und Public Enemy. Und geht unter die MashUp-Künstler.

The Rhythm, the Rebel

It was right there in the concert listings for anyone who could believe it: „Public Enemy, at BB King“™s Blues Club.“ BB King“™s Blues Club? Granted, they get good shows once in a while, but PE? It turned out to be a one-off show for a VH1 reality series. That“™s one of the perqs of NYC: In exchange for the high rent, high taxes, substandard housing, and rats, occasionally you get to see your favorite celebrities perform up close, far from the glorified POW camps that call themselves concert venues.

I won“™t pretend that Chuck D needs my approval, but Christ. That was good. I had a nagging worry that they“™d just do a token performance and call it a day, but there was nothing half-assed about it. The set was all PE classics (Bring the Noise, 911 is a Joke, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos), with some back-in-the-day banter between.

Since back in the day, though, Flava Flav has become a celebrity in his own right thanks to VH1″™s reality show, The Surreal Life. In their turn on this stage, Flav and Brigitte Nielsen stole the show by demonstrating that a celebrity fling can transcend height and hue, while still keeping all of the artificiality that we, the public, demand. Flav“™s performance so impressed VH1 that they created two more series to further explore his romantic side. This new career as a VH1 love troll has been so successful for Flav that it was hard to imagine him playing second-fiddle with Public Enemy again.

About midway through the BB King show, Flav took the mic between songs. In his own triumphal but vulnerable way, he thanked the audience for making him the number one reality show celebrity, and fielded some questions from the crowd regarding his various on-air loves. Chuck retired to stage left and let Flav engage his public.

From Chuck D“™s extensive online corpus (seriously, check it out), it“™s pretty clear that he is not happy with the direction that hip-hop music has taken. Amid a sea of gold and grillz he stands alone, wearing nothing more ostentatious than a chain on his wrist with all the bling appeal of a medical alert bracelet. He“™s rap music“™s Jello Biafra, lost in a sea of Green Day glam-punks.

But Chuck has one up on Jello: he“™s motivated by more than just frustration. Chuck is what we call, in nationalistic terms, an „awakener“. Beyond his role raging against the (innumerable, incessant) indignities and injustices committed against black Americans, he actively fights to shape and define a culture, to improve its sense of identity and self. Even if all his grievances were miraculously resolved tomorrow, Chuck would still have a job, whereas Jello would be nowhere without rednecks and bad cops. (In Jello“™s defense, the idea of trying to shape and define a culture of anarchy is probably not good for much more than an easy one-liner.)

But what is a head-to-toe-black-wearing, S1W-commanding, poison pen-swinging militant like Chuck D supposed to do when his closest conspirator turns into the clown prince of tabloid TV? Should Flav be ostracized for playing ball with the Great Suck that is celebrity culture? Should he be castigated for race-mixing? Should he be sent back to the „˜Velt for re-education?

As the audience dutifully clapped for Flav“™s „you really do love me“ speech, Chuck moved back to center stage. Carefully, but with sincere affection, he eulogized, „This man has always been one of hip-hop“™s greatest characters.“ And then the show was on again, powered by their tight delivery and undeniable chemistry; the generalissimo and the jester.

It“™s been made clear that Chuck is none too pleased with Flav“™s choices, but apparently not so much that they can“™t share a stage. Perhaps Chuck believes that human creations like doctrine, revolution, and politics only exist in the service of man. If doctrine demands that you be less than human, then doctrine must be sacrificed. Humanity, not dogma, is what a rebel fights for. Facing a choice like this one, between purity of message and his partnership with Flav, Chuck knows what you do. You do the right thing.

During their last song, Flav impishly stole the spotlight one more time, stage-diving into the crowd to wild cheers. Even the S1Ws had to smile.

„When the throne of God is overturned, the rebel realizes that it is now his own responsibility to create the justice, order, and unity that he sought in vain from his own condition, and in this way to justify the fall of God.“
— Albert Camus, The Rebel

„Without literature, a people cannot exist.“
— Aleksander Dukhnovych

„…I don“™t care how rough they say they life is in America. I deal with cats who are from Russia, and I ain“™t never seen no hard life as Russia.“
–Chuck D., from an interview on allhiphop.com

The collaboration I“™m still waiting for… (3.5 Megs)

5 Kommentare

  1. 01
    boo

    ironically, PE are also part of the first mashup I’m aware of:
    Public Enemy, „The Rhythm, The Rebel“ vs Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
    first one in the tracklist, 1994(!)

  2. 02

    Yeah, Chuck has issues with hip-hop.
    I call it „the onset of generational conservatism“
    Thanks for the photo credit.

    http://www.hiphoppolitics.org
    http://www.getahead.us

  3. 03
    Charles

    That mp3 of Chuck D at University of Houston on http://www.hiphoppolitics.com is dead on. Especially the part about being arrested in NYC. Someone should make the f*cking mayor listen to it.

    http://www.kpfti.org/audio/Chuck%20D.mp3

  4. 04
    shensche

    yo Charles! unfortunately, my PE tapes did not survive the switch to the digital age. but they had been my first politically motivated love in music and i wore a PE neckerchief when crossing out Nazi graffiti… i am not so familiar with the US conscious scene at the moment, but the Dead Prez are still da bomb: http://deadprez.com.

    haera ra,
    shensche

  5. 05
    charles

    shensche, the digital age taketh, and it also giveth away. Enjoy!!

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