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-Public Enemy

Archived Headlines
(from December 1998)

12.12.98 3:00 am pst   Music Industry to Take on MP3
(from Wired web site)
The Recording Industry Association of America is expected on Tuesday to invite major tech companies to develop a new file format for selling music on the Internet. The effort is aimed at challenging MP3, music-industry executives said. 
The move comes amidst a heated controversy over just how to sell music on the Internet. MP3 -- or Motion Picture Experts Group, audio layer 3 -- compresses audio files for easy distribution over the Internet at near-CD-quality sound. The RIAA has been fighting the format because it claims MP3 facilitates music pirating. 

One exec said the initiative will call for the development of a standard that lets computer users purchase and download music from the Internet -- with emphasis on the word "purchase." Unlike MP3, the most popular file format for storing and playing music on a PC, the new technology would not allow free duplication. 

"It's going to be an announcement about an industry-wide initiative to secure copyright on the Internet," said Alexandra Walsh, a spokeswoman for the RIAA. She declined further comment. 

The RIAA issued a press release on Friday sketching Tuesday's announcement. Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the RIAA, Jason Berman, chairman-elect of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and US record-label execs will hold the press conference to announce a "worldwide initiative to address new digital music opportunities," the statement said. The conference will take place in the Sony Building in New York City.

Berman will head up the effort, an executive said. The IFPI is an international trade organization for the record industry, and its membership includes 1300 record producers from the likes of EMI, Universal, and Warner Music. 

The RIAA will ask technology companies including America Online, AT&T, IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, Sony, and Toshiba to join the initiative. 

Rap artist Chuck D of Public Enemy recently brought attention to the MP3 issue by posting some of the group's songs in the MP3 format on Public Enemy's Web site. The group was forced by its distributor, PolyGram, to remove them. 

"The thing that strikes us is that there are literally thousands of these MP3 players being downloaded," said one exec. "The train has already left the station. There's already an open standard." 

A call for developing a new technology would indicate the record labels are still determined to shun MP3 as a way of selling tunes online. 

Rival formats are offered by the likes of Liquid Audio and a2bmusic, a subsidiary of AT&T, which offer proprietary platforms for online music distribution. 

IBM also is working in conjunction with major labels on the "Madison Project," its own digital distribution platform, according to a report in the Financial Times. 

Todd Roberts, head of A&R for Astralwerks, an electronica label under Virgin Records, said that anytime a new technology comes along, the industry has to adjust its strategy. 

"When CDs came out, people wigged and thought they would lose out on commerce and profit," he said. "The industry will have to shift to meet people's needs. If not, they'll be left behind. This second, it's not a huge concern. But as the means of access increase, like satellites and the Internet, it will be more of an issue."

12.11.98  Public Enemy's Chuck D louder than a bomb
(from Canoe web site)
Anyone who's visited Public Enemy's official website ( will tell you its best feature is the entertaining and provocative rants from the political hip-hop crew's lead mouth. 

Truth be told, Chuck's musings are far more interesting than the shameless fan mail that passes for hip-hop journalism these days. 

Last week, Chuck D mused -- to put it mildly -- on the recent $10.4-billion Universal Music's merger with PolyGram. He attacked his label (PolyGram) for allegedly forcing PE to take MP3 digital sound files of songs from Bring The Noise 2000, an album of brain-melting industrial mixes of PE classics, off its site. 

"The execs, lawyers and accountants who've made most of the money in the music biz are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp," Chuck wrote. "Let 'em all die. I'm glad to be a contributor to the bomb." 

By Errol Nazareth -- Toronto Sun

12.9.98  Take the Noise
(from web site)
PUBLIC ENEMY, who had been putting up tracks from their forthcoming remix album 'Bring the Noise 2000' in MP-3 format files on their web site, have been forced to remove them by their record company.

A statement from CHUCK D posted yesterday on the PE web site read:


"It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire....

"Today Polygram/Universal or whatever the fuck they're now called forced us to remove the Mp-3 version of Bring The Noise 2000.

"The execs, lawyers and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp.

"Let 'em all die... I'm glad to be a contributor to the bomb... 

There was no comment from Universal in the UK as of Friday at 4.30 pm gmt.

The first mass-market MP-3 player (the first, the MP-man, is rare and hard to come by) the DIAMOND RIO (pictured) arrives in British shops next week, and will sell for around '175. Basically, it's a discless walkman which downloads music files from PCs or from websites and can store up to an hour of high quality stereo sound.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has already filed a complaint against Diamond on the grounds that it violates US law on home recording. Diamond have launched a counter-claim against the RIAA, alleging that they are conspiring to restrain trade. 

EMMA FANNING, legal adviser for the BPI (British Phonographic Industry - equivalent of the RIAA here) told "We want consumers to get the most out of this new technology but at the same time we have got to protect the artists. We have come across illegal use of the internet, but hopefully that sort of thing will change." 

One source who works in a major label told "The big labels are running scared because they don't understand the implications of Mp-3. It's like trying to sit on the lid of Pandora's Box after it's been opened."

12.8.98 7:55 a.m. est  Public Enemy Remix Album Pulled From The Net 
(from MTV website)
 Mark up Public Enemy's Chuck D as a supporter of digital music distribution, and not a fan of his record distributor. Public Enemy's frontman posted a note on the PE website ( complaining that Polygram forced them to remove computer music files from the site. The band had been offering free downloads via the MP3 format of "Bring The Noise 2000," a new 'megamix' album with re-mixed past and recent hits.

"It seems like the weasels have stepped into the fire," wrote Chuck. "Today Polygram/Universal or whatever the f*** they're now called forced us to remove the MP3 version of 'Bring The Noise 2000.'

"The execs, lawyers and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp.

"Let em all die... I'm glad to be a contributor to the bomb."

The country's major labels, under their umbrella association the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have been strong opponents of the new technology, which they say leads to music piracy. (see "RIAA Files Suits To Halt Sale Of Portable MP3 Player").

The prolific Chuck D. writes a regular running commentary on his site providing a personal journal, band updates, music chart news, fan mail responses and the like. He also offers up opinions, observations and news bits covering music, politics, sports, movies or whatever other topics strikes the rapper's fancy.

Chuck D's writings can be found at

12.7.98 11:00 am est  Chuck D Blasts Biz Over MP3 Opposition 
(from Billboard web site)
Public Enemy leader Chuck D is speaking out about the record industry's stance against the MP3 file format. He tells Billboard Bulletin that the Def Jam act's attempt to post "Bring The Noise 2000" -- an unreleased collection of songs and remixes -- for free digital download at was an act of defiance against the music industry. Four of the set's 27 songs were posted in MP3; the tracks were removed from the site shortly after news broke of their availability. 

"That we don't like the way [PolyGram] has been handling the album, that goes without saying," says Chuck D of Def Jam's parent. "But the bigger picture is the entire industry and the legal aspect of the game skewing toward executives and against the creative. There are tons of artists that are having the same problems, but now we're in a situation where the industry can't pimp this technology like they've pimped every other form of technology. [The labels] invented the wild, wild west, and now that everybody's got a gun, what are they gonna do?"

Neither Def Jam nor PolyGram would comment. 

Noted hip-hop producer Gary G-Wiz, who worked with Chuck D on the MP3 postings, claims that the project is a promotional effort and will not hurt retail sales. Chuck D says he will use MP3 again in the future.

"I'm gonna ride the MP3 like a mutha-f----n' cowboy riding a burro," says the veteran rapper. 

-- Doug Reece, L.A.

12.7.98 8:39:57 am  Public Enemy Forced To Remove Album Off Their Website! 
(from Davey D's web site)
The other day Public Enemy got threatened with a lawsuit from their label Def Jam/ Polygram for releasing songs on their website from their yet to be released album 'Bring The Noise 2000'. Apparently the album was supposed to be released several months back. If you recall earlier this year we had reported how PE was returning to the scene with two lps. The first was in actuality a soundtrack for Spike Lee's movie 'He's Got Game'. The second lp which was to immediately follow was the 'Bring The Noise 2000'.

In any case the lp release date was pushed back twice, causing the group much frustration. All this was compounded by the lack of support the group received from the label for 'He's Got Game'. Behind the scenes there were some major rifts between Public Enemy and Def Jam label heads Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen. The rift had reached a point public acknowledgement when the Chuck D put up a website and let his beefs be known in his bi-monthly commentary called 'The Terrordome'. Here he referred to Russell Simmons as 'Hustler Scrimmons' and Lyor Cohen as 'Liar Conman'.

The soured relations took a turn for the worse when the label heads step to Chuck and company about them putting tracks from their unreleased lp up on the website. Taking advantage of a new technology called MP3 which allows users to have CD quality sound from downloaded recordings, the group had hoped to create a 'street' buzz for their lp. This of course is same type of approach taken by numerous artists and now increasingly more labels, when they allow unreleased songs to appear on 'mixtapes'. In this instance the commonly used marketing approach was put on a high tech level. The real deeper problem is that the MP3 technology is one that has not been wholeheartedly embraced by record companies. In fact they have been one of the leading opponents calling for limited use of the technology. Their collective protest resulted in a recent court injunction which has since been overturned. 
In a recent column, Chuck D noted the following; 

'The execs, lawyers and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp.'
So now disappointed fans will have to wait to see how this whole thing plays itself out. However, the word is that there are a few webheadz who managed to get a hold of the entire album and will be making the lp available on their respective websites.... If you wish to voice your opinion on this topic .. Hit up the Strictly Hip Hop Message Boards...

12.5.98 3:00 am pst  Public Enemy's Chuck D on MP3
(from Wired web site)
Rap group Public Enemy is known for speaking out -- especially band member Chuck D. The group is famous for radical lyrics in songs like "Fight the Power" and "911 Is a Joke." 
When it comes to the controversy surrounding the distribution of audio on the Internet, Chuck D is true to form.

"As far as the industry [goes], fuck 'em all," he said. "Now they're all fucking scared. The means of distributing the fucking product [is] in anyone's hands." 

Public Enemy runs an extensive Web site, with audio files of their music, video clips, message boards, photos, and song lyrics. In the past three weeks the band posted portions of a longer remix for free download in the MP3 format, according to Chuck D. They planned to release one sample a week from an unreleased 27-minute remix of old Public Enemy songs called Bring the Noise 2000. 

But on Tuesday, Public Enemy's distributor, PolyGram, threatened legal action unless the songs were removed from the Web site. Both Chuck D and Gary G-Wiz, one of Public Enemy's producers and the group's webmaster, confirmed that the band took the songs off the site, as requested. 

Representatives at PolyGram did not return calls asking for comment. Def Jam Records, Public Enemy's record label, declined to comment.

Chuck D said posting the free songs was an act against the entire record industry. 

"We were looking for [PolyGram] to shut us down anyway," he said. "This industry is one-sided and Public Enemy has always been one to make a statement." 

The brouhaha between Public Enemy and PolyGram is part of a larger issue in the distribution of music online. Most music industry players see promoting and selling music online as inevitable. But just how to do that is the controversy. 

The music industry is fighting against the MP3 audio format, which compresses audio files for easier transmission over the Internet. MP3 delivers CD-quality sound, but it drives the Recording Industry Association of America nuts that users can distribute songs without paying royalties. 

Gary G-Wiz admitted that, legally, PolyGram has the right to make the band remove the songs from its Web site. 

Public Enemy doesn't own the rights to the songs, Gary G-Wiz said. "We weren't selling them -- they were just there [on the site] for promotional purposes. But it's their call. They can make us take them down." Public Enemy would like to offer more audio samples, but it remains to be seen whether PolyGram will allow it, he said. 

A proponent of MP3 argued that the format is good for reaching the huge audience of MP3 users on the Internet. 

"Band members think it's a great idea, but you have a real reluctance at the record-label level [to use the format]," said Michael Robertson, president of Z Company, which operates the Web site. "They don't understand that's where their users are." 

Steve Grady, spokesman for GoodNoise, an online record label, says MP3 is a vehicle for sales. And, he said, MP3 is not solely a format for free downloads. 

"More artists will look at this as [not only] a promotional vehicle but as a sales vehicle," Grady said. GoodNoise sells songs from the likes of ex-Pixie member Frank Black for download in the MP3 format. Grady said offering music for free downloading could spread the negative message that music is not valuable online. 

"Potentially, PolyGram's intellectual property was at risk," said Bill Woods, spokesman for Liquid Audio, which makes an rival downloading platform based on proprietary technology. "We provide a secure method of doing this." 

The record labels "are afraid if people get MP3s, they are not going to buy their CDs," said Gary G-Wiz. "But people appreciate being able to try something." And, he said, most online music listeners use MP3. 

On the Public Enemy Web site, a note of protest from Chuck D is all that remains of the MP3 recordings. 

"Polygram/Universal or whatever the fuck they're now called forced us to remove the MP3 version of Bring The Noise 2000," said Chuck D. "The execs, lawyers, and accountants who lately have made most of the money in the music biz, are now running scared from the technology that evens out the creative field and makes artists harder to pimp. Let em all die ... I'm glad to be a contributor to the bomb."

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