By Raoul Juneja
Listening to Public Enemy’s “Burn Hollywood Burn” presents an insightful analysis of today’s Hollywood climate, while speaking volumes about frontman Chuck D, especially considering the song was released 26 years ago.
After 14 Public Enemy studio albums, two solo albums, four Grammy nominations and an autobiography, Chuck D has teamed up with members of Cypress Hill and Rage Against The Machine to form a counter-culture American music collective known as Prophets of Rage. Chuck D and DJ Lord from Public Enemy join Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, as well as B-Real from Cypress Hill, who had the blessing from his co-emcee Sen Dog.
“Getting [Cypress Hill’s] Sen Dog’s blessings was big to me as with having the pleasure of being the number two mic to B-Real’s lead in Prophets Of Rage,” says Chuck D. “I say that because he has all the savvy and aplomb to lead a stage flow and timing that Tom also feels. That’s important as they flank side to side area on the stage so the front rhythm of the performance starts there. Timmy C, Brad, DJ Lord and I maintain a back rhythm.”
If not them right now, then who? The politically-charged group’s “Vote Rage” memorabilia is even backed by a promise to donate portions from every concert to homeless charities in each of their 31-city tour dates across North America.
We spoke to Chuck D ahead of the Prophets of Rage tour, which includes three Canadian dates in Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City.
Was Tom Morello the common link that brought Prophets of Rage together, Tom having been featured on both “Rise Up” by Cypress Hill and “Riotstarted” by Public Enemy within a few years of each other?
Yes, it was Tom who had asked me. He asked my wife as well. This was an idea brewing in his head ever since we participated in a supergroup lineup of LL Cool J, Travis Barker, DJ Z-Trip and him and I on the 2013 Grammy Awards. It was for LL’s single [“Whaddup”] off his  album.
There seem to be more rock and rap collaborations than ever before, Prophets of Rage being the epitome. Are you surprised when pockets of outcry still surface after hip-hop groups like Public Enemy or N.W.A. get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
It’s usually by folks who are way deeply submerged into their particular fan genre and are racially limited by their lack of understanding of what rock and roll is, and the history of how it evolved. Music is music. Rap is a vocal as with singing so it can drive over any musical template. It’s not a music genre per se. Rock and roll splintered after the 1960s came in, rock was understood from the Stones to Green Day. Rap was the descendant of the roll part. That usually silences the less-informed.
Did Prince share any thoughts with you about Public Enemy, or hip-hop in general, during your collaborations with him? Do you recall ever hearing Prince freestyle?
Yes, Prince personally and publicly cited me and my group as somebody who brought and elevated rap and hip-hop to a musical area that he appreciated. Prince was music. He freestyled on every instrument and lyric like it was water.
Follow Raoul Juneja on Twitter: (@raouljuneja)