Chuck D visited the main branch of Akron’s public library last week as part of its excellent series of free lectures. The introduction described his hip-hop squad, Public Enemy, as “arguably the most important rap group in history.”
The frontman took the stage to the soulful chorus sample from PE’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” an anthem of sociopolitical disenfranchisement. He got a standing ovation for just taking the stage – maybe a little of it was for wearing a navy Cavaliers cap, even though he’s a lifelong Knicks fan. Chuck quickly explained that he’s not a bandwagon fan, and said LeBron James “seems like a fine young man, who comes from a place that’s about some values.”
The Quotable Chuck D, Part Two of Three: RaceOn his graying goatee: “I’ve got some gray in my face… There’s no Grecian formula for this; as a black man in America, you’ve got to earn this.”
On race in America, and his failure to distinguish between black and Latino cultures’ contributions to hip-hop: “If you’re non-white in America, you’re a person of color.”
On white people in rap: “Can a white person be hip-hop? Yeah. Hell yeah, because it’s a culture.”
On black women: “Black women are treated the worst in society. Black women are superwomen.”
On the post-Imus controversy regarding use of the N-word in hip-hop: “Everything on the street ain’t meant to be broadcast. The N-word, the B-word, if it has its place, it’s in dark corners.”
On hip-hop’s revival of the N-word: “You cannot turn the word ‘nigger’ around, because the first time it was used, it like, ‘Nigger, get on that boat.’” [Followed by a pantomime of a whip crack].
On accepting the N-word: “If you let people call you anything, you’ll let them call you everything.”
On Barry Bonds’ chase for the home run record: “I’ve never seen so much blatant racism in my life.”
On Roger Clemens’ light work schedule and general pampering: “Roger Clemens is the worst thing ever for baseball… What does that tell you? ‘You’re the best, so you get provisions’?”
On race: “Race is still misunderstood in America. There’s only one race: the human race… Don’t applaud for me – I didn’t make this up.”
No, but he has the best way of saying it.
Part 1 of the Quotable Chuck D, Part I: On Rap – D.X. Ferris