Chuck D talks protest songs, audio vs. visual, and his new project with Audible

The Public Enemy frontman spoke with theGrio about his new collaboration with Audible, ‘Songs That Shook the Planet,’ about Black protest songs.

Public Enemy has used its music to speak truth to power since the ’80s. Their frontman Chuck D has been the voice of their revolutionary sound and message thanks to songs like “Fight the Power,” “Don’t Believe the Hype,” and “Shut Em Down.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was inspired by the great Black musicians before him who all created socially conscious music. As a tribute to those artists, Chuck lent his talents to Audible for the audio special, Songs That Shook the Planet, which premiered on Feb. 3.

Chuck co-wrote, produced, and narrated this 90-minute project that highlights nine songs from 1939 to 1990 with sociopolitical lyrics that made a difference then and now:

Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy performs at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel

Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit”
Curtis Mayfield – “People Get Ready (Live)”
Sam Cooke – “A Change is Gonna Come”
Edwin Starr – “War (Live)”
Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?”
Stevie Wonder – “Living For The City”
Bob Marley – “Get Up, Stand Up”
The Special AKA – “Nelson Mandela”
Too Short – “The Ghetto”

Lorrie Boula co-wrote the special with Chuck with additional writing from Arthur Turnbull and Gia’na M. Garel. Songs That Shook the Planet is part of Audible’s Words + Music series, with episodes hosted by artists like Smokey Robinson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Common, and Gary Clark Jr.

One of the best aspects of Songs That Shook the Planet is Chuck’s ability to fuse important backstory information about each song and offer his personal connection to each track. At 61, he was thankful that he already knew about the songs.

“I think that was important in this day and time for me to at least know that I had the ability to reach into my own head,” he told theGrio.

With a list of songs that run from the earliest — Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” all the way to Too Short’s “The Ghetto” — the latest, Black anthems of social change and political diagnosis have been plentiful for many years.

Chuck notes that since technology has changed so much of how we all listen, record, release, and store our music, projects like this and Word + Music, as well as informed commentators, are necessary to educate the people.

“So, with all the artists out there, what we kind of need is something that puts it all in order; more curators, more journalists,” he explained.

“You’ve got five million artists out there. How many journalists do you have to cover them properly? And it seems like the music industry, for lack of a better word, it can’t catch up to the artistry, to judge it and put it in the proper context because it’s not enough.”

One of the reasons Chuck D was happy to do the project on Audible was because it gives people an opportunity to focus on what’s being said about the music.

Although visuals have become prevalent over the past 40 years, Chuck says that most of the songs mentioned in the episode benefitted from only being available via audio.

“People today, they listen a little bit too much with their eyes and they’re developed to listen with their eyes,” Chuck said. “So, it’s sounds, story, sight and style, which lets new listeners over the last 10 years engage in the music that might have to do with how it looks and how it sounds.”

Chuck is adamant that these songs and similar ones were not only calls to political action, but also affirmations of confidence and pride.

“I’ve seen the result of people being engaged based on what they heard, and then what they heard was seared into their psyche and processed. OK. Wow. Curtis Mayfield, “We’re A Winner.” All right. Yeah, I’m a winner, too. I ain’t never gonna be called a loser.”

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The post Chuck D talks protest songs, audio vs. visual, and his new project with Audible appeared first on TheGrio.

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