Sophont
Saturday, June 12, 2004
 
Interview with Chuck D & Hank Shocklee of Public Enemy
stayfreemagazine.org: "When Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in 1988, it was as if the album had landed from another planet. Nothing sounded like it at the time. It Takes a Nation came frontloaded with sirens, squeals, and squawks that augmented the chaotic, collaged backing tracks over which P.E. frontman Chuck D laid his politically and poetically radical rhymes. He rapped about white supremacy, capitalism, the music industry, black nationalism, and--in the case of 'Caught, Can I Get a Witness?'-- digital sampling: 'CAUGHT, NOW IN COURT ' CAUSE I STOLE A BEAT / THIS IS A SAMPLING SPORT / MAIL FROM THE COURTS AND JAIL / CLAIMS I STOLE THE BEATS THAT I RAIL ... I FOUND THIS MINERAL THAT I CALL A BEAT / I PAID ZERO.'

In the mid- to late 1980s, hip-hop artists had a very small window of oppor-tunity to run wild with the newly emerging sampling technologies before the record labels and lawyers started paying attention. No one took advantage of these technologies more effectively than Public Enemy, who put hundreds of sampled aural fragments into It Takes a Nation and stirred them up to create a new, radical sound that changed the way we hear music. But by 1991, no one paid zero for the records they sampled without getting sued. They had to pay a lot.

Stay Free! talked to the two major architects of P.E.'s sound, Chuck D and Hank Shocklee, about hip-hop, sampling, and how copyright law altered the way P.E. and other hip-hop artists made their music.

The following is a combination of two interviews conducted separately with Chuck D and Hank Shocklee. --Kembrew McLeod"

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