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Recent Headlines
(from June 2000)

6.27.2000  Confrontation Camp No Longer Warped
(from Spin website)

Well, it appears that rapper Chuck D's hard rock outfit, Confrontation Camp have dropped out of their 8-date West Coast stint on this summer's Warped Tour. A spokesperson for Artemis Records, the band's label, said they decided to cancel their appearances because the release date of their debut album, Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, was recently pushed back to Aug. 8, and that they would prefer not to play shows when they have no album on the shelves. That is too bad. Confrontation Camp also features the talents of guitarist Kyle Jason and Professor Griff. In related Warped news, I should remind you that Lit, No Doubt, and Black Eyed Peas are only performing on one Warped date, July 11 in Minneapolis. So if you do not live in Minneapolis, do not expect to see these people, OK?

6.27.2000 14:30 est  Chuck D's Confrontation Camp Leaves Warped Tour
(from MTV website) by Robert Mancini

It looks like Chuck D won't be getting Warped this summer after all.

Press reps for the Vans Warped tour say that the Public Enemy rapper and his new band, Confrontation Camp, are no longer on the tour. Spokespeople for Artemis Records, which signed Confrontation Camp earlier this summer, noted that the release date of the band's debut has been pushed back. With "Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" not arriving until August 8, Artemis added that it didn't want to send the band out on the road without an album in stores.

Chuck and company were slated to join Green Day, Papa Roach, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, NOFX, The Donnas, and a host of punk's finest on the tour, which kicked off last weekend.

Chuck formed his rock side project (which also includes Professor Griff and guitarist Kyle Jason) in 1998 (see "PE's Chuck D, Professor Griff Go Rock Route With Confrontation Camp") and the band made its live debut in New York last summer (see "Chuck D On Possible Public Enemy-Confrontation Camp Tour").

When word of the project surfaced two years ago, Professor Griff hinted at the band's sound, describing it to the MTV Radio Network as an "alternative aggressive rock, soul, poetry kind of thing," and promised to bring "beats that's gonna stick to the ribs and knock the drunk out of the average college student."

6.26.2000  Chuck D: Louder Than An MP3
(from VH1 website) by C. Bottomley

After turned around and attacked its online brother Napster last week, Chuck D has verbally bum-rushed the Web site's CEO, Michael Robertson. The executive recently supported a Recording Industry Association of America petition demanding an injunction against Napster while the embattled MP3-sharers fight off a lawsuit from the RIAA.

Chuck D knew what time it was. "There's so many people jumping sides in this whole digital realm," he told Sonicnet's Richard B. Simon. "I guess [Robertson] decided to get off the raft and get on the Titanic. Somebody needs to tell Mike it's better to be in the raft."

Robertson might have found the raft to be a little waterlogged. A federal judge ruled in April that violated major-label copyrights by including their recordings in its database without obtaining licenses first. Last week the company settled with BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group for an undisclosed sum.

The formerly ornery has since made nice with the RIAA, in what's the first indication of cooperation between the music industry and the online world, whose technology is changing the way the former's product is distributed. That's why Robertson's name was found on the injunction demand alongside RIAA president/CEO Hilary Rosen, songwriter Mike Stoller, and others.

"In my view, Napster is not designed to promote or share the music of unknown or lesser known artists," Robertson said in the petition. "The only way to find a song on Napster is to enter the name of the song and/or artist that the user wants to find." Robertson had also complained that Napster distributed music by artists without authorization.

"It's never been about the music over the last couple of years; it's about figuring out ways that they can squeeze the consumer dollar," D observed of the latest wrangling.

"When you're dealing with the airwaves and the free world, you can't talk about what you don't have or what you shoulda had. Eminem's sh*t has been pirated and bootlegged, and he still sold 3.3 million copies for Dre's label, so how could you just talk about 'Well, he could have sold 5.3 million?'"

Chuck has since taken to the Net himself with a vengeance after turning his back on the music industry ("I basically just couldn't survive in it," he admits). The rapper is now involved with and He's also got a new rock band with PE member Professor Griff called Confrontation Camp.

Those hoping to see Chuck D & Confrontation Camp on the Warped Tour, however, will be disappointed. Although the group was advertised on the bill, D has had to pull out. Said a Warped Tour spokesperson, "I don't know if they were ready to play live yet."

Just when we were getting ready to put MP3s of their rehearsals on Napster, too.

6.22.2000 3:00 am edt  Chuck D Criticizes Chief For Siding With RIAA Against Napster:  Rapper accuses recording industry of trying to maintain status quo, getting greedy for consumer dollars.
(from SonicNet website)
contributing Editor Richard B. Simon reports:

Veteran Public Enemy rapper Chuck D criticized CEO Michael Robertson for attacking Napster in a legal statement Robertson filed last week.

"There's so many people jumping sides in this whole digital realm," Chuck D said. "I guess [Robertson] decided to get off the raft and get on the Titanic. Somebody needs to tell Mike it's better to be in the raft."

The statement was posted on the Recording Industry Association of America's Web site Monday as part of the group's lawsuit against the controversial file-sharing software company.

The statement was included with the company's request for a preliminary injunction, which would forbid Napster from allowing copyrighted material to pass through its portals for the duration of the copyright infringement suit brought by the RIAA.

"In my view, Napster is not designed to promote or share the music of unknown or lesser artists," Robertson said, attacking Napster's position that its primary purpose is to allow lesser-known bands to get their music heard. "The only way to find a song on Napster is to enter the name of the song and/or artist that the user wants to find. By definition, unknown artists cannot be found, at least not in any meaningful way." had been in the same boat as Napster — weighed down by numerous copyright infringement lawsuits filed by major record labels — and the company announced in recent weeks that it had reached joint court settlements and distribution agreements with industry megaliths Warner Music Group and BMG Entertainment.

Representatives of did not return calls for comment.

'New Radio'

But Chuck D, who holds file-sharing to be the "new radio," said the CEO is playing for the wrong team. RIAA, the rapper holds, is trying to maintain its traditional control over music distribution, disguised as a battle to protect artists' copyrights.

"It's real funny because the majors, at the end of the day, they just want to be in the same position that they've always been in," Chuck D said. "A lot of the record companies own the copyrights from the last century. It's easy to look at a scapegoat excuse — 'Oh yeah, we're looking out for artists.' … It's never been about the music over the last couple of years; it's about figuring out ways that they can squeeze the consumer dollar."

RIAA spokesperson Amy Weiss said it's not just record labels that own copyrights. Therefore, she said, the fight isn't only about labels losing money. "There's also a lot of copyrights owned by the songwriters and some artists, too," she said. "We at the recording industry don't pretend to represent artists — we represent record companies — but we're all in this together. Piracy on the Internet is serious, and if everybody's music is going to be stolen, and nobody gets paid for this, we all lose."

But Chuck D questions the recording industry's projections of loss because of Napster and other forms of unauthorized digital distribution.

"When you're dealing with the airwaves and the free world, you can't talk about what you don't have or what you shoulda had," he said. "Eminem's sh-- has been pirated and bootlegged, and he still sold 3.3 million copies for [Dr.] Dre's label, so, how could you just talk about, 'Well, he could have sold 5.3 million?' "

"It's like the fat king who sits on the f---in' throne and talks about how he could have ate 80 chickens ... and the rest of the motherf---ers is bringing him chickens from the f---in' town and starving themselves."

Chuck D has a few music Web sites of his own — the hip-hop site, net radio site and his legendary group's The rapper said the success of those sites has sent the group — known for its anti-establishment social critique in tunes such as "Fight the Power" (RealAudio excerpt) and "41:19" (RealAudio excerpt) — on eight tours.

Competition In Cutthroat Industry

Chuck D said he would not have been able to compete in a cutthroat recording industry, which he said backs only a few artists with big money and squelches the rest.

"I basically just couldn't survive in it," Chuck D said. "It would be easier for me to count from one dollar up instead of being in a vacuum of having to compete with a lot of other artists and needing at least a million dollars behind your art for the chance of being looked at and accepted."

Weiss said the RIAA accepts the Internet as a powerful promotional tool and welcomes new bands whose careers are brought up by Internet exposure — but Napster, she said, is not in the business of helping new artists.

"Chuck D has the luxury of being a well-known artist, and you can go on Napster and find his stuff," Weiss said. "There are a number of sites where you can find new music, but that's certainly not the case with Napster."

The rapper said the RIAA — as well as hard-rockers Metallica, fellow hip-hop icon Dr. Dre and Robertson — are approaching the digital-music revolution with the wrong tactic. He said they're trying to force new technologies to conform to an antiquated music-distribution system, rather than aligning themselves with the new.

"This is beyond any of your control," the rapper said he would tell Napster's attackers. "This is purely a situation where the public has gotten even with the industry, and you have to figure out how you can still serve the public and still be part of the industry. But it's not gonna happen in a 20th-century way. Those days are over. In a 21st-century situation, you might have to jump in the pool with everybody else. All the VIP sections are closed."

6.22.2000 9:30 am PT  Chuck D's Confrontation Camp Signs To Artemis
(from CDNOW website)  by Kevin Raub

Public Enemy rapper Chuck D has landed a label deal at Artemis Records for his latest project, the hard rock act Confrontation Camp.

Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear will surface on the label on Aug. 8. Originally, the record was to come out on Chuck D's own label, Slam Jamz.

Confrontation Camp features guitarist Kyle Jason as well as Public Enemy choreographer Professor Griff. Jason has previously worked with Public Enemy as a photographer on 1999's There's a Poison Going On as well as a vocalist on Chuck D's 1996 solo effort, The Autobiography of Mistachuck.

Meanwhile, "What What" from Public Enemy's Poison will be featured on the soundtrack to Scary Movie (allstar, June 15).

6.22.2000  Chuck D's Rock Band Gets Signed
(from Spin website)

Who knew Chuck D could rock? Well he can, and he will, now that his hard rock band Confrontation Camp has signed with Artemis Records. Their debut album, Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, will be out for your listening pleasure Aug. 8. Confrontation Camp is fronted by guitarist Kyle Jason and also showcases the blazing talent of former Public Enemy moguls Chuck D and Professor Griff. This will no doubt be quite a band, quite a band indeed. In related news, does anyone remember Body Count?

6.14.2000  Flav Finds Time for the Boss
(from NME website)

‘s FLAVOR FLAV has joined the growing ranks of people backing BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, who was slammed by NEW YORK police representatives for writing a song about the shooting of a West African man in the city.

Speaking to US website, Flav said: "Bruce Springsteen, he sees the picture. Can’t no-one blame a man for seeing reality the way that it is. And y’know what? I’m with my man all the way."

Public Enemy were the first group to write a track about the death of Amadou Diallo in February last year, when he was shot 41 times by police officers, who were later acquitted of his murder. Their track ‘41:19’ was on their album ‘There’s A Poison Goin’ On’.

The Springsteen song ‘American Skin’ was attacked by senior police representatives this week, who urged cops to boycott The Boss‘ series of 10 sold-out New York gigs. At a police rally in Manhattan yesterday (June 13), vice-president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch was cheered when he said: "We don’t need a millionaire coming down here and making money off our backs... on a terrible, terrible tragedy."

Meanwhile police union chief Bob Lucente has apologised to gay groups over his comments that Springsteen was "a floating fag" for writing the song, saying: "The [comment] was made out of disgust toward a public figure whom I once admired, not against someone’s sexual preference."

6.14.2000 3:39 pm  Flavor Flav sides with Springsteen
(from Q Online website)

He might have lost the respect of blue-collar New York cops since playing his new song American Skin last week, but Bruce Springsteen's still got a sell-out at Madison Square Garden and the thumbs up from Public Enemy's Flavour Flav, who came out in support of the Boss yesterday. American Skin has prompted an avalanche of criticism from New York police groups, outraged that their working class icon has dared to comment on the death at the hands of police of Amadou Diallo last year, in a hail of police gunfire (see Monday's story).

The timepiece favouring Flav has allied himself with Springsteen saying, ""That man [Diallo] is in the ground; those police still have their jobs. Can't no one blame a man for seeing reality the way that it is. And y'know what? I'm with my man [Springsteen] all the way." Flav added that he's a fan of Springsteen - Streets of Philadelphia being a particular favourite - and said, "No one is stopping the Boss - they can't wash him away because of one doggone song."

Meanwhile, Bob Lucente, president of the New York state chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, has offered an apology to openly gay NYC officials, who had objected to him referring to Springsteen as a "floating fag". The full quote was: "[Springsteen] has all these good songs and everything, American flag songs and all that stuff, and now he's a floating fag. You can quote me on that."

A contrite Lucente said in a statement yesterday, "I offer to [gay police officers] and their families my most sincere apologies for a comment made in anger over the many deaths of those in law enforcement. The [slur] was made out of disgust toward a public figure whom I once admired, not against someone's sexual preference." Despite the apology, irate officials called for Lucente's resignation.

6.14.2000 17:35 gmt  Public Enemy Man Backs the Boss
(from Music365 website)

rapper Flavor Flav has added his support to Bruce Springsteen over the rocker's controversial new song 'American Skin (41 shots)'.

Based on last year's killing of 22-year-old West African immigrant Amadou Diallo -shot 41 times by New York police officers who thought a wallet he was holding was a gun- the song has prompted fierce criticism from police groups, who urged their members to boycott Springsteen's current string of dates at Madison Square Garden.

Flavor Flav meanwhile said: "Bruce Springsteen, he sees the picture. Can't no-one blame a man for seeing reality the way that it is. And y'know what? I'm with my man all the way."

Flav, whose Public Enemy song 'There's A Poison Goin' On' also addressed Diallo's shooting said: "That man is in the ground; those police still have their jobs".

The rapper, who said he was a longtime fan of Springsteen's music later added: "Springsteen is the Boss. No-one is stopping the Boss - they can't wash him away because of one doggone song."

Flav joins Springsteen fans and civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton in their support of the rock star. Meanwhile according to the Sonicnet website, a group of openly gay and lesbian public officials have condemned a police-group leader for using an anti-gay slur when speaking about Springsteen last week.

Bob Lucente, president of the New York state chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Police called Springsteen a "f**king dirtbag" and a "floating fag".

He later apologised saying: "I offer to (gay police officers)and their families my most sincere apologies for a comment made in anger over the deaths of those in law enforcement. The (slur) was made out of disgust toward a public figure whom I once admired, not against someone's sexual preference."

In a press conference held in New York on Tuesday June 13, council member Philip Reed and other openly gay elected officials said Lucente's apology wasn't enough and pushed for his resignation.

Reed said: "You have the president of an organization that's speaking freely and without condemnation of 'floating fags'. This is inappropriate."



The Springsteen debate continues. Where on earth do you stand ladies and gentlemen? Do say you'll Email us.

6.14.2000 8:46 am edt  Hip-Hop Exhibit Features Run-D.M.C., Tupac Shakur Artifacts: A red leather jacket worn by the Notorious B.I.G. also piqued interestof museum crowd.
(from SonicNet website)  Correspondent Daniel Harthorne reports:
CLEVELAND — You might not think a suit worn by jazz great Cab Calloway would belong in a rap exhibit, but "Roots, Rhymes & Rage: The Hip-Hop Story" reveals that the young history of hip-hop has strong ties to its musical and cultural antecedents.

"We feel this exhibit has something for everyone," said Santina Protopapa, education program director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Hip-hop is a global phenomenon. Its language and dress have come to define much of contemporary pop culture."

The exhibit, which opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum last November and will run through August, features more than 50 costumes and includes artifacts from Run-D.M.C., a clock donated by Flavor Flav and even a few pairs of funky old Adidas shoes.

Most of the artifacts are on loan from the artists or their estates. "Once the exhibits shift to New York it will be expanded," Protopapa said. "Hip-hop originated in New York and we're sure more artists from that area will contribute to the collection.

But the Cleveland exhibit didn't receive short shrift. The exhibit spans three floors of the museum and is organized into different sections: the Block Party, the Roots, the Golden Era, Controversy, Outrage & the Rise of Gangsta Rap and Pop Goes the Culture. The latter underscores the genre's pop success, from MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice to genre moguls Sean "Puffy" Combs and Master P. The display also pays tribute to the Sugar Hill Gang, whose "Rapper's Delight" recording, released more than 20 years ago, was hip-hop's first crossover hit.

Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa and other hip-hop pioneers, whose live performances are near-legendary events, are only featured to a minor extent. But that does not diminish the exhibit's effect and scope.

Taking Hold

"Roots, Rhymes & Rage" clearly shows the economic influences the music has had in the last decade. Hip-hop has risen from the backbeats of urban streets and now is affecting every aspect of contemporary pop culture, from merchandising and sales to fashion.

Jennifer Grodin, a hip-hop fan who made the trip to the exhibit from Dayton, Ohio, was surprised to see how extensive the displays of hip-hop memorabilia were.

"I had no idea how vast this exhibit was," Grodin said. "I like how they have integrated some of the lyrics into the displays and the clothing." Grodin, like many other viewers, was drawn to the gold ring once sported by Tupac Shakur and a red leather coat and tan suit worn by the Notorious B.I.G. Both artists were victims of unsolved drive-by shootings.

The exhibit also features a film, "Style Wars," the first documentary about hip-hop culture, produced by Pittsburgh native Henry Chalfont, a photographer, and his partner Tony Silver, a filmmaker. It chronicles the war between New York's subway graffiti artists and city officials.

Get To The Basics

Overall, the exhibit begins ostensibly with an exploration into the four principle elements of hip-hop: DJing (cutting and scratching), MCing, graffiti art and breakdancing. This presentation includes an interactive video for viewers. There are even photos of former president Ronald Reagan with the New York City Breakers.

Most provocative is the section that explores hip-hop's political and controversial messages. Here, among other things, are legal appeals from 2 Live Crew's infamous obscenity trial, and a letter from the FBI that addresses Ice-T's "Cop Killer" recording.

"Obviously we couldn't present the entire hop-hop culture in one exhibit," said Protopapa. "But our aim was to do service to the genre. We feel everyone has been able to take something from the exhibit."

Preceding the exhibit's opening in November was a three-day hip-hop conference sponsored by Cleveland State University's black studies department. There, Chuck D, KRS-One and journalist/activist Harry Allen held workshops and panel discussions on the origins and evolution of hip-hop culture.

This September, the exhibit will travel to the Brooklyn Museum, with other cities expected to follow.

6.13.2000 10:06 pm edt  Flavor Flav Praises Springsteen; Police Head Apologizes For Slur:  Rapper declares solidarity with rock icon; other officers assail Boss during rally.
(from SonicNet website)
Staff Writer Brian Hiatt reports:
Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav, whose songs include the social commentary "911 Is a Joke," declared solidarity Tuesday (June 13) with Bruce Springsteen, even as the rock icon continued to draw fierce police criticism for his new song "American Skin."

Meanwhile, a group of gay and lesbian public officials condemned a police-group leader for referring to Springsteen with an anti-gay slur during an interview with last week.

"Bruce Springsteen, he sees the picture," Flavor Flav said. "Can't no one blame a man for seeing reality the way that it is. And y'know what? I'm with my man all the way." (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

With "41:19" (RealAudio excerpt), a track included last year on Public Enemy's There's a Poison Goin' On, Flavor Flav became one of the first artists to address the February 1999 death of Guinea native Amadou Diallo, who was shot at 41 times by New York police officers as he stood unarmed in the doorway of his Bronx apartment building.

The shooting is also, at least in part, the subject of Springsteen's "American Skin," which he debuted in a June 4 concert in Atlanta. The song has since sparked insults and calls for a boycott from two major police groups.

Flavor Flav (born William Drayton) said that in the song, which includes the refrain "41 shots," Springsteen simply is addressing what he called the obvious injustice of the shooting of an innocent, unarmed man.

"That man is in the ground; those police still have their jobs," Flavor Flav said. The officers involved in the shooting were acquitted in February of murder and manslaughter charges.

Police leaders continued to attack Springsteen during a solidarity rally held in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon.

"We don't need a millionaire coming down here and making money off our backs ... on a terrible, terrible tragedy," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said at the rally, as hundreds of officers cheered.

One of Springsteen's most vociferous critics, Bob Lucente, president of the New York state chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, issued a statement Monday apologizing for comments he made last week to about Springsteen.

Lucente had called Springsteen a "f---ing dirtbag" and a "floating fag," comments which were then widely reported in other news outlets, including the New York Post.

"I offer to [gay police officers] and their families my most sincere apologies for a comment made in anger over the many deaths of those in law enforcement," Lucente said in the statement. "The [slur] was made out of disgust toward a public figure whom I once admired, not against someone's sexual preference."

In a press conference held Tuesday, New York councilman Philip Reed and other openly gay elected officials said Lucente's apology wasn't enough and called for his resignation, according to a news report on the local TV network NY1.

"You have the president of an organization that's speaking freely and without condemnation of 'floating fags.' This is inappropriate," Reed said at the conference.

Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, defended Springsteen and chided Lucente in a statement released Tuesday.

"Bruce Springsteen is an artist who has always been a moral leader and an articulate voice for those people who don't often get heard. He is a hero to working men and women, including the rank and file of law enforcement," she said. "[Lucente] should be grateful that we live in a country where an artist's voice can express ideas that challenge the system and give rise to change." Flavor Flav said criticism of Springsteen, who played "American Skin" to cheers and some boos Monday night at Madison Square Garden, is unlikely to have any effect on the rocker's career.

"[Springsteen] is the Boss," said the rapper, who added he was a longtime fan of Springsteen's music, citing "Streets of Philadelphia" as a particular favorite. "No one is stopping the Boss — they can't wash him away because of one doggone song."

A spokesperson for Springsteen had no comment on "American Skin" or the continuing controversy surrounding it.

6.13.2000  Man Vs. Music Machine
(from Washington Post website) by Teresa Wiltz: Washington Post Staff Writer

If you saw "The Matrix," you know what the deal is. If you didn't, here's the Cliffs Notes: Basically, we're all just a bunch of zombie pods, enslaved by computers that suck our lifeblood. To break free of the Matrix, you must free your mind, and then your bod will follow. Of course, to do this, you gotta have a guru, in this case an enigmatic philosopher type named Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne wearing shades and hipper-than-thou black leather.

But what does a sci-fi flick have to do with the congressional testimony of Chuck D, legendary rapper, author, Internet entrepreneur? Everything, he says. Chuck D, the Morpheus of the free-music movement, has come to this bland little hearing room, sporting a backward baseball cap and a Rapstation sweat shirt, because to him, "The Matrix" isn't just a great movie--he's seen it four times--it's a metaphor.

But dig it: In real life, he says, it's the music establishment--not the machines--that has enslaved us. The computers will actually bring about salvation. Sort of.

"Break Free From the Matrix," Chuck D, the 39-year-old leader of the '80s rap group Public Enemy, pronounces on his Web site, "The New Music Industry Is Here!" Taking Gil Scott-Heron one step further, Chuck says: "The Revolution will not be Televised, it will be Digitized."

Indeed, the revolution has come in the form of guerrilla software with geeky names like MP3 and Napster and Gnutella, software that allows computer users to swap and hoard clean digital copies of their favorite songs. Gratis. Not surprisingly, this has become the darling of the college set and the nightmare of the music industry. Copyright suits and injunctions are flying, musicians are shaking their fists at fellow musicians over the wisdom of giving away music, and even fans are being hauled into court.

And in the midst of all this, some observers say the musical powers-that-be are starting to look like the powers-that-were.

"Them days are over," Chuck D told the House Committee on Small Business recently. "Digital distribution and file sharing is like those asteroids that wiped out all the dinosaurs. And in this case, the dinosaurs are the Big Four: Sony, BMG, Time Warner and Universal. . . .

"Napster and downloadable distribution is the biggest excitement since disco, rap and the Beatles. It is like new radio. . . . The chickens have finally come home to roost."

If you're hearing an echo of Malcolm X, that's not completely unintentional.

Got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be

-- "Fight the Power," Public Enemy

There are those who want to take this newfangled technology, chain it down, contain it, maybe make it go away. But that would be like trying to handcuff ether.

In the midst of all this is Chuck D, a k a Carlton Ridenhour--a husband and father of three, a man coming straight outta Long Island, armed with droll witticisms and a flair for the dramatic. He's an Adelphi University grad whose rap group once sold millions of records, but whose latest CD, Public Enemy's "There's a Poison Going On," has tallied only 35,000 units, according to Soundscan. A man who swears that this technology will save the music industry from itself.

It's a big message. But he's a man who understands the value of hyperbole and performance. A man who knows that testifying before Congress is, at heart, well, testifying. In the old-fashioned sense of the word. So he lays it on thick.

Because it's all about a new paradigm, baby.

Other musicians--Filter, Madonna, Eminem--call the Napsterites nothing but thieves, but as Chuck D sees it, in this new world order it's all about a communal approach to commerce--commerce without the middleman. The entire planet is one big family, a wired world of music contained only by the boundaries of bandwidth and bravado.

This is the deal, according to the Chuckster:

If you're a musician, you give a little to get a lot. You get to control the content of your product--and the money coming to you. If you're a consumer, you get to customize your CDs. Everyone gets to partake of the musical pie. Musicians will get to keep more of the money from their sales. Every artist gets heard.

That makes sense to some artists, like Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, who this summer will embark on a tour sponsored by Napster, the California software company that has helped turn downloading into a youth craze. But it doesn't cut it with rapper Dr. Dre or drummer Lars Ulrich from Metallica, both of whom are suing fans who've downloaded their tunes free of charge.

"It's about controlling what you own," Ulrich said recently on "The Charlie Rose Show," where he debated Chuck D. "We clearly own songs, we own the master recording to those, and we want to be the ones to control the use of those on the Internet.

"It's not really about the money," Ulrich added. "Part of what we're trying to do here is make people understand what they are doing is illegal. I'm not even gonna get into the moral issue."

Then there's Madonna, the original multimillionaire Material Girl, who was furious after her yet-to-be-released single was leaked onto the Internet earlier this month.

"This music was stolen and was not intended for release for several months," Madonna's manager, Caresse Norman, said in a statement. "Those sites that offered a download of Madonna's music are violating her rights as an artist."

Right now, no one is clear about how artists can benefit financially from this, especially when anyone with a mouse and a ton of patience can download thousands of tunes free. Of course, the fat cats in the corner offices are scrambling to figure that out.

But for enterprising consumers--like the students at Springbrook High in Silver Spring who are doing a brisk business selling downloaded CDs to their classmates at five bucks a pop--the calculus is simple.

"You don't want to pay $16 when you can pay $5," says a Springbrook senior, who asked not to be identified for fear of ratting out his buddies. "It's everywhere. And the sound is the same as a regular CD."

Tommy Silverman, founder and president of the indie label Tommy Boy Records, faced off in Congress against Chuck D, talking about the terror he says is being wrought by Napster.

"It is bad enough you are losing the sales, but you are also losing the element of surprise," he said. "Routinely you can get records a month before they are even out."

Suddenly, Silverman says, his biggest artists--rap acts like De La Soul and Capone and Noreaga--are so paranoid about having their music leaked onto the Internet that they won't let him have copies of their works in progress. And then, on a recent visit home to see his mother, Silverman found his 11-year-old cousin listening to a CD. It was a disc of tunes that the kid had downloaded from the Internet and burned onto a CD. It just happened to contain one of the songs from Silverman's own label.

"It's about bootlegging," says deejay-mixmaster Ali Shaheed Muhammad, formerly of A Tribe Called Quest and now performing with the new R&B group Lucy Pearl. "It's the same old story."

For fans of Napster, particularly the 600,000 or so who have been banned as a result of the lawsuits filed by Dr. Dre and Metallica, them's fightin' words.

Do unto others as they have done unto you
But what in the hell is this world coming to?

-- Metallica, "Fight Fire With Fire"

Coleen Cude, 32, photographs rock bands for a living. Loves Metallica. Saw 'em three times in concert, bought about five of their CDs, even coughed up some cash for some Metallica T-shirts.

Make that loved Metallica. Because now that she's a named defendant in Metallica's copyright suit, she'll never buy another CD by the band again.

"No waaaay. No. They're filthy, filthy rich and this is ridiculous. I've put plenty of money in their pockets."

Cude, who lives in Smithville, Okla., says that once--and only once--she downloaded one of the group's songs. The band tracked her down using consultants who were able to sniff out the names of fans who, like Cude, used Napster.

Cude says she relied on Napster as a tool to sample songs before running out to buy the CD. But now, whenever she tries to sign on to Napster, a sign pops up: "Metallica has banned you from this site." She's tried changing her online name, her handle. Nothing works.

"I don't see how bands lose money off this," Cude says. "If you've never heard of a band, you go on Napster, you love the song and you buy their CD. If they're coming to town, that's one reason you're going to see them play."

Cude sees Metallica's lawsuit as little more than a "big scare tactic for Internet users."

It's too late. Technology is way out there. Dr. Dre and Metallica can holler all they want, but it's beyond that now."

"Notice the only artists complaining seem to have the fattest pockets. . . . There's no boundaries with this. Damn right I'm a downloader!"

-- Pack FM and Tonedeff, finalists in Rapstation's "Power to the People and the Beats" pro-Napster rap contest

There's a reason why Chuck D calls himself the lyrical terrorist, the "messenger of prophecy" out to eradicate the "vultures of culture." This is what rap--the medium that brought him fame--is all about, bragging and anointing yourself as the Second Coming. Or Morpheus. But Mista Chuck also, to paraphrase one of his Public Enemy hits from back in the day, really believes his hype.

The system, he says, has to be eradicated so that everyone can participate. And he means everyone. "A million artists with a million labels."

"The system has to change and adapt," Chuck said while in Washington to plug his cause. "The whole system actually took something that was free to begin with and made it a profitable thing. Yeah, that was a 20th-century luxury. Now that tree is dry. You can't be shaking the tree when it ain't got no fruit."

As he sees it, that tree--the music industry/Matrix--represents only a few artists. Those whose names are Britney or Christina or Mariah or Ricky are among the lucky few, names that get pummeled into our consciousness on a daily basis, thanks to the marketing muscle of the Big Four. Thousands of others never get heard. Others, like indie folkie Ani DiFranco and former Erykah Badu backup singer N'Dambi, eschew record contracts, preferring to build their audiences through grass-roots efforts.

For musicians who do get a record contract, signing on the dotted line can be the modern-day equivalent of sharecropping: You sign with the company and you owe your soul to the company. You get an advance of, say, $1 million. It's strictly a credit arrangement. Until the artist pays back the company for the costs of making a record, from studio time to video production, she doesn't see a cent. Even once the record label has recouped its advance, most artists make only a small fraction of the retail CD price.

Still, as long as the current paradigm is in place, and the Big Four control the distribution channels--getting music to the stores--it's hard not to play ball with them. If, that is, you want your music to get a wider audience. But there are those who are willing to take a risk.

Take, for example, Jahi, a Cleveland rapper who recently relocated to Laurel. Since the early '90s he's carved out a reputation for himself, either opening for acts like Public Enemy and KRS-One or touring the country on his own, performing at universities. He's been wooed by two major labels, and so far he's resisted, opting instead to market himself on the Net. He makes his own music, pays to manufacture the CDs and sells them himself. So far, he says, he's sold roughly 600 CDs on the Web, marketing his music through sites like (His own site,, will launch sometime this month.)

He charges $10 per CD and nets about $7.50 of that sum. If he were signed to a major label, he says he'd get about 56 cents per CD. So far, the math works for him, although he is talking to a major label about arranging distribution to major retail outlets.

"There are thousands of emcees who have been left out and who will never get a deal with a major label," Jahi says. "The Internet is allowing the everyday artist or the indie artist access to the world. I'm communicating with South Africa right from my den. I'll give a song away if I can see there's an angle to get more people to listen to my music. As an independent artist, I can gamble like that."

Another soldier for Morpheus. And no doubt about it, the record industry is starting to feel the assault. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission found that the major record labels had been artificially hiking up the prices of CDs. A group of Connecticut music fans promptly filed a $1.5 billion class action suit that accuses Capitol Records, Universal, Sony, Time Warner and BMG of conspiring to overcharge for CDs.

Change is inevitable. "It's wasted effort to fight this thing," says technology forecaster Paul Saffo. "You can't fight it with legislation. The response will be a yet-newer technology that is bureaucrat-proof and record-industry-executive proof. We're standing on the shore of a huge new ocean of opportunity. All the hand-wringers in the music business who are sitting here worried about their CD sales, quite frankly, they're standing on a whale fishing for minnow."

It's likely that industry bean counters will find new revenue models on the Net. One method might be to charge subscription fees--you can access all the MP3 files you want for a monthly bill. Another method would be a system of micro-payments--a few cents to listen to each song. The idea is to make it so cheap to listen to the music that it won't be as tempting to pirate tunes.

Or, coming soon to a cell phone near you will be wireless applications protocols. Let's say you're driving around, listening to a song on the radio. You like the song, so you grab your cellie and push a button. Within days, the CD will be delivered to your doorstep.

"Without a doubt, some people will lose their jobs," says Saffo, whose California-based Institute for the Future tracks trends in technology. "But I guarantee this in the new order: There will be opportunities for musicians to get seriously, seriously rich."

I can tell your future
Look what's in your hand
But I can't stop for nothing
I'm just playing in the band

-- "Playing in the Band," the Grateful Dead

Back before the Net became a neon commercial medium, before the advent of MP3 and Real Player and e-biz and IPOs, it was a community. A place where geeks were into sharing and karma and freedom and all sorts of touchy-feely hippie ideals. It was like a big parking lot after a Grateful Dead show--except in cyberspace.

The comparison is instructive. Take things back three decades or so, when the Dead toured the country, bopping from city to city as a corps of hardy fans followed them around, taping their music and swapping the cassettes among other die-hard fans.

At first, the band didn't like it. They cracked down on fans, admonishing them that anyone caught recording live shows would be booted out.

"We assumed they were stealing our intellectual property," says Dead lyricist and road manager John Perry Barlow. But then the musicians shrugged, figuring they weren't in it for the money, Barlow says. (Which was convenient, considering that they weren't making much cash.)

"We figured it's bad for your karma to be mean to a Deadhead," Barlow says.

And a funny thing happened: The tapes became valuable currency, with Deadheads swapping cassettes back and forth. Like a virus, the music spread. Concerts starting selling out; records went platinum.

For Barlow, who now spends his days at Harvard as a fellow in the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Napster and the other download technologies are spreading the karma. "This is the best thing that can happen to artists," he says.

"The record industry can give you a Britney Spears, an 'N Sync or the Monkees. The real thing markets itself. And news of quality spreads fastest by word of mouth."

A dollar a rhyme but we barely get a dime
If you don't own the Master
Then the Master own you

-- Public Enemy, "Swindler's Lust"

What Chuck D represents is the intersection of culture and technology. It's no coincidence that rap acts are the ones most frequently downloaded on MP3 sites. Rap music, which relies on sampling snippets of sound to create a cohesive whole, is technology's baby.

In its infancy, rap created a communal aesthetic; everyone's music was fair game to be sampled. All you needed to make music were two turntables and a microphone. And then, as they inevitably do, the lawsuits started raining down. Now, samplers pay royalties to the samplees.

So for Chuck D, the Net is the logical next step, a way for him to preserve his artistry. These days he's not signed to a major label. Instead, he's signed a short-term licensing contract with Atomic Pop Records, an Internet-based label. Short-term is the key word here. It's all about control. Which, coincidentally, is what Metallica's Ulrich says about his band's decision to sue Napster and their fans. Both want control. They just don't agree on how to get it.

To spread his message, Chuck D launched, serving up rap news, politics, radio, music videos, a rap contest where wannabes can compete with pro-Napster rhymes (naturally), free music downloads and a mini-movie of Dr. Dre playing a short-order cook at Ben's Chili Bowl. The "rapstation" moniker is deliberate, a nod to Chuck D's belief that the Internet is the radio of the 21st century, radio that embraces the global-village aesthetic.

It's a vision that's a little bit capitalist, a little bit socialist and a little bit anarchist. Chuck doesn't bother with labels. His manager, Walter Leaphart, is a capitalist. That's good enough for him. When you're sought after on the college lecture circuit, making a minimum of three appearances a month--charging anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for the privilege--then you can afford to be egalitarian.

You can also afford to be plugged in. For those who don't have access to high-speed modems, or even a computer--including some of the brothers who stop Chuck on the D.C. streets, smiling at the sight of him, pounding fists to chest in solidarity--being wired isn't such an easy thing.

And right now, the reality is, the revolution is leaving some folks behind. There's a digital divide.

Still, Chuck D is out there, spreading the word, the Morpheus of the modem.

"A lot of people are confused, stuck in old ways and the old traditional things and holding on to them. We call people like that caught up in the Matrix. They're just stuck."

Bottom line, as his manager, Leaphart, puts it:

"You got DSL at home? You won't pay for music again."

They laugh. Get quiet.

"What do they think is going to stop this?" asks Chuck. "Baby Jesus? Jesus is going to stop Napster."

They laugh. Like they've already got a new savior. They'll keep on fighting the power--and believing their own hype.

6.6.2000 11:20 am  Public Enemy Attack the Queen
(from Q online website)
Public Enemy vented extreme anti-monarchy feelings during their show at Dublin's Red Box venue on Friday (2nd June), as well as claiming that Princess Diana was killed by the Royals. Chuck D, Flavour Flav, Professor Griff and the PE crew performed before a before a sold-out audience where they repeatedly interrupted the show to comment on British and American politics, the former succinctly summed up by Flavour Flav who yelled, "England's over here, Ireland's over here, and the muthafuckas are still tryin' to tell you what to do." Chuck D on the other hand, concentrated on the Diana issue saying, "Fuck da Queen. They all think that the rest of the world is stupid, but we all know that they killed Diana."

6.6.2000  The UK's New Public Enemy
(from Platform website)

Public Enemy, while playing a recent gig in Dublin, apparently taunted England's monarchy, with leader Chuck D calling the Queen, "some bitch across the water." The monarchy-bashing continued during the show when Chuck D also said, "They think that the rest of the world is stupid, but we all know that they killed Diana." Flavor Flav later dedicated the Sex Pistol's song "God Save the Queen" to Her Majesty, calling it instead "God Help the Queen." Yet England was not the only country under fire by the rappers, as the group also commented on the recent acquittal of the police officers involved in the shooting of Amadou Diallo. Diallo, an African immigrant, was shot at up to 41 times and hit 19 times after being suspected of burglary.

6.5.2000  Review: Public Enemy, Homelands, Scotland: The rap group brought its message to a U.K. dance festival.
(from LiveDaily website) by Alexa Williamson (LiveDaily Staff Writer)
All revolutionaries eventually become dated. It happened to Marx, it happened to Mao and eventually it'll happen to Public Enemy. But not yet. First bursting onto the scene in '82, PE's popularity fuse still has a ways to go before burning out.

Still trying to push their latest album, last year's "There's a Poison Goin' On," Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and their military dance troupe the S1Ws have hit the U.K. festival trail. And Homelands, Scotland, is one of the weirdest places you would expect to find hardcore rappers. Not only are they performing at a dance event where every other act is house, techno or drum & bass music, but they have de-camped to U.K.'s own "Deliverance" country. Homelands is cold, wet and miles from the nearest McDonald's, but on Saturday (6/3) Public Enemy didn't care. The group came to empower and to entertain.

The crowd was white, young and Scottish. With their baggy army pants, Adidas sneakers and Gap sweatshirts, most of them have likely heard classics off of "Fear of a Black Planet," but have never actually come face to face with the Enemy. Yet, they are enthusiastic PE supporters and this encourages the track suit-clad Chuck D and clock-wearing Flavor Flav to give the 75-minute set 110%.

Everyone in the group knew his part. Griff's twirling high kicks were amazing, while Chuck and Flav were in top vocal form as they belted out "911 Is a Joke," "Don't Believe the Hype" and "He Got Game." They are consummate professionals whose stage presence put even established British groups like Leftfield to shame on Saturday.

Public Enemy's attack on Homelands was three-pronged. First, it was, as always, to make their listeners question authority and all the conventions that come with living in a Western society--"Fight the Power" is the group's creed in three words. Second, it was a publicity stunt for their latest release--the band has its own label now, with overheads to be met. And third, to reinforce that it is one of the tightest rap groups that has ever walked the planet. The group succeeded in doing all three on Saturday, confirming that its act isn't just a smoke screen these days, but that the fire still rages on.

Related artist profiles:
Public Enemy

6.5.2000 15:45 gmt   Public Enemy Brand the Queen "A Bitch"
(from Music365 website)

branded the Queen "a bitch" at their Dublin gig on Friday (June 2).

According to UK media reports, the band taunted the monarchy during their set at Dublin's Red Box venue, with leader Chuck D calling The Queen "some bitch across the water".

"They all think that the rest of the world is stupid, but we all know that they killed Diana," he also said during the gig. PE member Flavor Flav also dedicated a misquoted Sex Pistols' track to Her Majesty, 'God Help The Queen'.

Also drawing flak from the PE crew during the gig were Amercian politicians and the police, just days after four white police officers were acquitted of murder charges relating to the death of black American Amadou Diallo in New York last year. Plain clothes police opened fire on him 41 times - hitting him 19 times - after stopping him on suspicion of burglary.

The rappers play London's Stratford Rex tonight (Monday, June 5).

Back to Dean's Tribute to Public Enemy (Main)


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