America hip-hop rap legends Public Enemy will take the spotlight on the Tramlines main stage on Devonshire Green on Saturday and leader Chuck D is promising to make a statement.
But that’s what the band have been doing for more than three decades.
Famed for its politically charged and social conscious rap music, it’s 25-years since they released Fight The Power, the anthemic theme from Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, about civil rights and racial tension.
But Chuck, 53, speaking exclusively to The Star from his home in New York, is quick to point out that one of the most popular and influential songs in hip hop history is not about fighting authority but the abuse of power. And the man whose music paved the way for social change says you have to listen before you start to talk, or in his case rap, with one of the most distinctive, powerful and impressive voices in hip-hop.
He said of Fight The Power: “Fighting the abuse of power is where it came from – most definitely. I’m a culturalist. I believe that culture rings louder than government. Government has separated, divided and split people up. While culture has united us.
“I would say that you have to listen before you talk. So there’s a lot of listening before I talk about how the music can answer some questions.”
He added: “We work on rap music and hip hop as something we want to balance, to have all kinds of perspectives and not just the perspective of a corporation for money’s sake – to come out with the lowest hanging fruit, just to sell records and not be an art form. We’ve got to fight for that. That’s what we do.”
Public Enemy are hoping to bring to Tramlines Jahi Torman, aka PE2.0, or Project Experience Millennium, the next generation of the brand and sound.
Chuck, birth name Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, said: “We’re going to play our songs and actually make some statements. I’m trying to introduce PE 2.0, if he can actually get his passport.
“We were one of the first festival playing rap artistes. Anytime we get to play the UK is really exciting. It’s always somewhat of a pleasure.”
Chuck, who fulfilled boyhood dreams when his voice was used on computer games Grand Theft Auto and NBA Ballers, reckons anyone can rap. But you need belief.
He said: “When it comes down to MCs and rappers, I tell them the challenge is to really state what they believe. Belief is a very strong thing.
“If you can speak you can rap, as long as you use what you have.
“Rap is between talking and singing. You can develop a flow to the language you already have. Not to say that you’ll be great at it. But you wil be able to have a style.
“I was enthused by the technical aspect of it all, it drew me to hip hop. Then you had people like Grandmaster Flash and they were just brilliant. I thought that was a great start.”
Public Enemy, whose global smash hit albums include Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Fear of a Black Planet and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black, were inducted into the Rock and Rol Hall of Fame last year.
They will play the Tramlines main stage on Saturday at 5pm.