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Chuck D Wants To Change Face Of Urban Radio


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"That **** is over," Chuck says of the liberal use of the n-word at Hot 97's Summer Jam. "If there was a festival and it was filled with anti-Semitic slurs... or racial slurs at anyone but black people, what do you think would happen?"

Chuck D wants Urban radio to "get it right or be gone" -- and he's not just talking about Hot 97 in New York. The Public Enemy co-founder has been in a Twitter war of words with the Hot 97 team since the station's Summer Jam concert on June 1, when he derided "what a sloppy fiasco (the station) has made of Hip-Hop."

Reached by Billboard backstage before the group's Parklife Weekender festival appearance Sunday in Manchester, England, D said his unhappiness about the Summer Jam -- particularly over the prolific use of the N-word and a line-up D felt did not adequately represent the New York hip-hop community -- was "the last straw" in a general dissatisfaction over the state of rap and radio stations that play and brand themselves with the music.

"My goal by year's end is to change the face and sound of urban radio," D promised. "I've been in this **** 30 years, too long to just sit and let it be. I'm not going to be the grim reaper. I don't want to be the grim reaper. But people have to stand up and we need some change, and it's time."

This year's Hot 97 Summer Jam featured performances by Nas, 50 Cent, Childish Gambino, Iggy Azalea, the Roots, Nick Minaj, Wiz Khalifa and many more. D says he was particularly disturbed that the use of the N-word was so readily tolerated by the station and festival organizers.

"That **** is over," he noted. "If there was a festival and it was filled with anti-Semitic slurs... or racial slurs at anyone but black people, what do you think would happen? Why does there have to be such a double standard?"

Citing the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as an example, D added that he felt it would be proper to include a contract clause for performers "to at least be civil in the presentation of the art form they've been granted with."

And though he said that he's "not trying to be a moral compass," D added that he also feels it's time for record labels to also consider clauses "saying you can't be derogatory to the community you can from" in contracts with their artists.

D said he was also disappointed that the Summer Jam lineup did not include enough local artists, especially for a radio station from the birthplace of rap and hip-hop culture.

"It's just a sloppy presentation of the art form, the worst presentation known to man," D explained. "It's negligent. There needs to be a greater representation of the culture and the community on that radio station." Broadening the discussion to the state of Urban radio in general, D said that, "When people say the word Urban, they don't know what that means. When they say urban music, they mean playing black artists -- and artists outside the community. It should be a representation of playing music by a lot of different artists -- non-black artists, too. I just want to see artists be able to have fair game."

Though D labeled comments that Hot 97 personalities Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg made to Billboard in response to his criticisms "a bunch of hogwash," the MC said his argument is less with them and more with station ownership.

"It's about their bosses," D said. "That's where the discussion needs to go."

But D said he doesn't require a direct role in that discussion for himself. "Why would I sit down with them? I don't have time for that. I don't have to show 'em ****; they're grown people. I ain't wasting my time. Let them sit down with the community and the artists. They'll tell 'em. I'll watch from afar. But they better get it right or we'll destroy the platform of Urban radio across the country."

D did, however, say he'd continue to monitor and speak out about the situation, mostly via written commentary and via his Rapstation.com site and radio station, as well as other outlets.

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I'm a huge fan of Chuck D, he was one of my inspirations to pursue a study in Political Science and Public Administration, but I sometimes feel conflicted when you see these types of arguments. Sometimes his analogies don't always line up with what he's trying to get across, and in this case I feel like he's picked the wrong person to focus on. Living in Wisconsin I can't say I've ever listened to Hot 97, but I have listened to Rosenberg's Juan Epstein Podcast. Chuck has been spending much of his time and focus on Rosenberg saying he's not helping hip-hop but I've found that podcast to be an invaluable piece of history and learning about the culture, just listening to the stories many legends have help you better understand their music. And I believe it was Rosenberg who called out that Niki Minaj song a few year s back as not being hip-hop, and I don't recall Chuck, the curator of hip-hop, coming to Rosenbergs defense. I think Rosenberg has the right understanding, that this type of discussion is too big and complicated of issue to discuss in the Twitter format, especially since Chuck prefers to tweet in chopped metaphors and similes. But as of yet I haven't seen Chuck accept the repeated requests to discuss the issue on the Juan Epstein, which points out the glaring problem with a discussion on twitter, the picking and choosing of what to reply to. I think they both have valid points and it would be nice to see them sit down and chat about it. I just think they need to get off of twitter. It reminds me of that Pack FM line :"perhaps it's just a gap inbetween the generations / when a 140 characters passes for a statement."

And in regards to his complaint that radio stations have contributed to the proliferation of the N word. I do think it's something that should be banned from radio waves, though again I don't listen to Hot 97 and I can't say I've ever heard it on the radio where I'm form. But I question his focus again. He's been on record stating that Ice Cube is one of the greatest rappers of all time, and while i'll give him making songs like Give it Up, but why doesn't he address the artist like Ice Cube who use it with so little regard for it's impact. Sure someone kid somewhere may hear it through there speakers on the radio, but who's voice is it coming from?

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hold on there's a difference between when ice cube uses the n word and most of today's ignorant rappers use it, ice cube puts substance in his songs, back in the 80s and 90s during the golden era of hip hop most rappers stood for something, today rappers stand for nothing that's why i'm happy that's why i'm happy that chuck d's still around fighting the power, the only hip hop station these days i listen to is the siriusxm backspin where they play all the quality old school stuff, i don't listen to so called black radio anymore, it's like will said on "i wish i made that":

"black radio, they don't play me though

ever since summertime they don't play none of mine

even though the fans went out and bought enough

i guess they think will ain't hard enough

maybe i should just have a shootout

get into a bank bust grabbing all the loot out

whoop somebody's ass kicking my boot out

right on tv so y'all see me(back up)

just ignorant, attackin', actin' rough

then will i be black enough?

oh wait maybe i'll jack a truck

full of cigarettes, guns, drugs and stuff"

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hold on there's a difference between when ice cube uses the n word and most of today's ignorant rappers use it, ice cube puts substance in his songs.

Ice Cube is another artist that I absolutely love, but you do have to admit that there are two different Ice Cubes. You've got the activist and message driven Ice Cube and then you've got the gangsta life Ice Cube who glorify the the violence and uses the word with disregard. Ultimately Ice Cube is just one artist that Chuck has given props to, you've got DMX for example, and if you took an alcoholic shot every time he uses the word you'd never survive an album let alone one song.

And this is where I struggle with Chuck's argument right now, what you and I are discussing is not where the argument between Chuck and Rosenberg started. It started with Chuck saying that "Current" radio is not good for the culture of hip-hop, but once Rosenberg responded, Chuck dropped that thread and moved to the use of the N Word. Chuck is a great activist in life but on twitter he tends to cherry pick his arguments and change the subject when it suits him. It's why I wish he would sit down and talk his point. I know he really shines when he's in interviews, my favorite of his is when he talk file sharing vs the drummer from Metallica and he managed to make Lars look like a money hungry person rather then an artist. Rosenberg did respond this morning and he did have a solid point, that Chuck has never liked radio, "sucka's never play me" , but at the same time he is wrong asking whether it was good when Chuck was "active" because PE released 2 albums lat year and were great. And he has that internet radio show. This is just the problem when people spend too much time talking on the internet rather then face to face.

And my personal opinion on radio is that it sucks. I can't remember the last time that I went any wear and listened to the radio, I spend my time scouring the internet for music I may like and listening to my Ipod.

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chuck d and public enemy are still active in 2014 touring the world with sell out shows and they released 2 albums in 2012 with critical acclaim, for those idiots to question what he's doing for hip hop culture is absurd, in his 50s he could still outperform sucka mcs in their 20s since he's an emcee master, you could say that chuck d never liked radio but don't question his contribution to the game, i like that mistachuck's on the internet voicing his opinion and putting these clowns in their place, while suckas waste time promoting garbage he keeps putting some substance for all real heads to relate to...

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I completely agree with you there. It's why I wish they'd just sit down and talk things out. I think both Rosenberg and Chuck are working towards the same goal, and unfortunately Chuck's attack is misguided, he's attacking Hot 97 but attacking an ally in Rosenberg.

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  • 2 weeks later...

where's all the other so called 'real' heads on the forum? it breaks my heart knowing there's not too many real artists and fans backing chuck d here, if those 1 million people who complain how wack lil' wayne is bought public enemy's recent albums then we'd be in a better place in hip hop, a lot of people talking loud but saying NOTHING

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Well I can't say that I'm a 'real' head but I do own everyone of PE albums and I love Chucks Autobiography album. I think he sounds really good over slower beats. Either way, I agree with Chuck's movement just not his individual target. I think he should go after the big dogs of the station, but Rosenberg's Juan Epstein podcast are highly informative and capture a stories of Hip-Hop culture that would otherwise be lost. I would love to see Will and Jeff on that podcast and hear there stories. That being said I'd like to see Chuck on there but he seems to really only be interested in making his statements on twitter and telling them to talk to other people.

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  • 1 month later...


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