Music

Press Conference: Public Enemy at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2008

by Winston "Stone" Ford

With Flava Flav in the building, we already knew that this would not be just any ordinary press conference.

Say what you want about the man, but the dude is living life to the fullest. I ran into Flav twice in Montreal and he’s keeps it real—he’s the same person that you see on TV, no matter if he’s in the bar, in the elevator, or at a press conference. Chuck D, on the other hand is the exact polar opposite of Flav. Yes, we know that already, but to see these two side by side only heightens their differences.

Chuck and Flav are like brothers, with Flav being his loud and rambunctious self going off topic more than once and giving off the wall answers for seemingly straight-forward questions, and Chuck being quiet and collective and overtly political. Even though there was reported tension when Flav started taping his Flavor of Love series on VH1. In 2006 when the series debuted, Chuck criticized Flav’s choice of action in 2006, but there is nothing but love on stage, with Chuck defending Flav and noting the fact that he invented his role as a hype man, as well as pointing out the diversity of the Public Enemy lineup.

Flava Flav

However, the younger generation will never really know the social impact of Public Enemy. Questions like “how does Delicious taste?” and “how can I be a cameraman on Flavor of Love?” seem to be the norm now at Public Enemy pressers. Chuck, for his part, steered the conversation back to politics.

With Public Enemy being North of the Border, Chuck focused on Canadian issues. “United States, is the new Mexico,” Chuck declares as he rails on government border policies, and the difficulty that now exists to cross into Canada. In fact, Professor Griff couldn’t make it across the border to Montreal. Chuck also remarked that Canada might become the next superpower because of its large oil, natural gas, and water reserves in relevance to its sparse population.

Chuck D and Flava Flav

Of course, with the possibility of the first Black president in our nations history, the media was anxious to hear Chuck D’s take on the election, and it was predictably dire: “You’re gonna see some shit that you ain’t never seen before. You’re gonna see some shit that you ain’t never heard before…sit back, pull up a chair and watch the greatest reality show in the world.” Flav lightened the mood though by talking about how Obama recalled to a journalist that he can never be as Black as Flava Flav. “The fact that I occupy space in that man’s brain is a blessing to me.”

Chuck is also sour on the current state of hip-hop. According to Chuck, the current generation of hip-hop has lost its focus by trying to get rich quick rather than developing the skill of MCing and DJing. He did big up Canadian artists such as K-OS and Kardinal Offishall as well as Much Music and Musique Plus (Canadian Music Video Channels), for promoting hip-hop artists who wouldn’t be given a chance on MTV.

Public Enemy is the self declared “Rolling Stone of hip-hop,” dropping 12 albums over their 25plus year career, and performing in over 67 countries. But do they fit today’s notion of popularity? Chuck got testy when a journalist called Public Enemy popular. “Popular? That’s news to me. I drove my 1997 Acura up here.”

Popular or not, Public Enemy are legends who should not be missed when they come through your town.