When Public Enemy broke their contract with Def Jam/Universal all those years ago, they knew they'd never sign on again with the major labels. It used to annoy me when folks would approached Chuck and ask, "so when are you guys gonna put a new album out?" or "you guys haven't done anything in a looooong time." But I soon became schooled in the politics of the music business, and came to understand that there's a reason folks believe that PE broke up, or that PE hasn't done any music in a long time, even though they've never stopped, and have been putting out album after album: the music business as most people know it is saturated by what the majors choose to promote. And since PE (and Chuck as an individual artist) refuses to associate with the majors (even though they share royalties on some songs), the difference in the promotion and distribution of a conscious group like PE vs. Lil Wayne or Gucci Mane is very distinctive.
The music business, as the majors continue to present it, is dead. But the creative industry is stronger than ever, due to the ability of artists to record, edit, mix, master, and shoot video all from their own home studios. Too many of us still drink the kool-aid, though, when we unconsciously think about what's popular and "successful" music: it's all constructed, promoted, funded by majors. And it's like the wizard of Oz: the power is smoke and mirrors. No wonder, then, that people don't know that PE is in their 23rd year of touring, and have visited, in that time, 64 countries. Between Chuck's own projects and PE, they've put out 9 albums since they left Universal. All of them are available for free on publicenemy.com.
This is why it's so important that we circulate a video like this one. It's a testament to our power as creative collectives and individuals. This video wasn't done with a lot of money behind it. Eclectic Method did a fabulous job of putting these messages about dignity and humanity into video format. PE videographer David Snyder (C-DOC), who does 99% of all PE videos, shot Chuck performing the song on a hill and on a bridge near our house in California. Chuck recorded this song in our home studio in NY, and it was engineered and produced by the legendary DJ Johnny Juice.
The inspiration for this song came from conversations we've been having about the physical terror of the border wall, and about the literal and discursive exclusion of Brown bodies from national membership, and by extension human membership. As the song took shape, so did the public side of SB1070. Now we see scores of other states trying to follow this precedence that has taken most visible form in Arizona's racist and inhumane treatment of the people who built that region of the country and so much more. Chuck's message has always been about illuminating the places where racism tries to hide. TEAR DOWN THAT WALL is his latest endeavor in that regard. It's meant to reveal the racism that pervades our debates about citizenship and human rights, but it's also meant to testify about the relevance of all aggrieved communities to this issue. It's not just a Brown issue. It's all of us.
We're incredibly proud of this...please circulate!
Chuck D: "Tear Down That Wall"