Category: Public Enemy

John Mellencamp, Chuck D to welcome 2012 Rock Hall inductees

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John Mellencamp, Chuck D, Steve Van Zandt, Bette Midler and Chris Rock are among the presenters who have been tapped to handle inductions for the 2012 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14 in Cleveland.

Mellencamp will welcome in Donovan; Public Enemy's Chuck D will give the speech for the Beastie Boys; E Street Band guitarist Van Zandt will bring in the Small Faces/Faces; Midler will salute singer-songwriter Laura Nyro; and Rock will do the honors for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Additionally, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill will introduce blues man Freddie King, and Carole King will give the remarks for her former Brill Building boss, publisher and TV impresario Don Kirshner.

Engineer-producers Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd and Glyn Johns will be welcomed into the Hall of Fame by the Band’s Robbie Robertson, and Smokey Robinson will introduce the newly anointed bands who are joining their previously inducted leaders: the Blue Caps (Gene Vincent), the Crickets (Buddy Holly), the Famous Flames (James Brown), the Midnighters (Hank Ballard) and the Miracles (Robinson).

This year’s ceremony will be held at the hall in Cleveland rather than its usual spot at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. A highlights special will premiere May 5 on HBO.

RELATED:

Guns N' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers among Rock Hall inductees

Critic's notebook: Rock Hall honors the yin and yang of Los Angeles rock

Flea on Chili Peppers' induction to Rock Hall: 'It's very emotional'

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Chuck D addresses a crowd during a January 2012 concert. The rapper-producer is set to introduce Rock and Roll Hall of fame inductees the Beastie Boys as part of a ceremony on April 14.  Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times.

     
   

Public Enemy puts spotlight on skid row

At Operation Skid Row, Chuck D and Public Enemy, and other acts bring attention to downtown Los Angeles' homeless district with a politically charged free show.

Flava Flav at Operation Skid Row

The concert stage for the Operation Skid Row festival was set up on Gladys Avenue between 5th and 6th, in the heart of downtown L.A.'s homeless district. As a white SUV turned onto Gladys, a murmur rippled through the crowd, turning into a roar as the hip-hop legend, elder statesman and co-organizer of the event, Public Enemy's Chuck D, exited the vehicle.

The goal of the free show Sunday was twofold: for hip-hop artists to perform gratis for skid row residents, and to spotlight the economic and political plight of L.A.'s homeless. It was no coincidence that it was scheduled the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. As speakers would pointedly note from the stage, this is also the 20th anniversary year of the Rodney King riots and the 25th anniversary year of Public Enemy's existence.

After leaving his vehicle, Chuck D spent a good 15 minutes walking through the crowd (a mix of skid row residents and fans from across the city), hugging attendees and posing for photos.

The crowd at Operation Skid Row

The necessity of erasing lines of privilege between celebrities and civilians, rich and poor, was a point Chuck drove home repeatedly in his roles as master of ceremonies and performer. His group Public Enemy headlined the largely old-school, West Coast-heavy lineup, kicking off the four hours-plus show and setting the performance bar so high it was only intermittently reached again.

With Public Enemy's Flava Flav, Professor Griff and scowling S1W in tow, and backed by a full band and DJ, Chuck D led the collective through a blistering set that included classics "Shut 'Em Down," "Can't Truss It," "Bring the Noise," "911 Is a Joke," "By the Time I Get to Arizona," and — of course — "Fight the Power." The scaldingly political and timely (if not timeless) lyrics, along with the group's high-octane energy level (yes, middle-age black men can jump) sent the crowd into a frenzy that held from the first note to the last.

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Chuck D premieres 'By the time I get to Arizona' art piece, talks politics and art

THE ART OF CHUCK D_1300069603298
Twenty years ago, Chuck D penned the prescient "By the Time I Get to Arizona," a searing tangent aimed at the state legislators who refused to vote for a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

With the passage of April's anti-immigration laws, the state once again became a center of attention for racial tensions and political debate. In response, the always-outspoken Public Enemy frontman has collaborated on an art piece with Ravi Dosaj, the man who just last year successfully recast the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA as George Washington

The result of their union, a limited-edition series restricted to just 300 canvasses, finds D standing in front of a blood-red backdrop, packing with different types of people standing glumly behind bars. According to the artists themselves, the concept details "a future Arizona border created in a sophisticated collage utilizing a cache of recognizable figures (created over the last 100 years) to show how our 'nation of immigrants' has been lost to legislation."

To promote the art piece and (as always) to impart knowledge, Chuck D spoke to Pop & Hiss about his latest venture.  

What made you decide to get involved with doing an art piece based on "By the Time I Get to Arizona?"

It was a mutual decision. I was familiar with [Dosaj] from his RZA portrait and his work with Bootsy Collins. Plus I come from a visual art background. I graduated with an art degree from Adelphi in 1984, and I've been influential in various art departments since the 1980s and 1990s. I've always believed that art and culture are intertwined with the human race and wholly diametrically opposed from government, who categorize you based on how old you are and how you look.

My song was nominally about finger pointing in Arizona and the hypocrisies there, but it was as much about Reagan telling Gorbachev to "tear down that wall." Really, what’s the difference between anti-immigration and anti-communism? That was why last year I released a song called "Tear Down that Wall" and made a video art piece directed by C4 to convey the artistic forwardness of that point of view. So it was a no-brainer to be associated with them. Most of the developments came when I was in the midst of a 27-country tour with Public Enemy, so we discussed our ideas and they took the ball and ran with it.

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