Chuck D interviews Zack de la Rocha

Chuck D: You have a tight flow, actually you can rap your ass off. What do you think about rap right now and it's narrow focus, for example, I believe if you gonna recognize a rapper on Funk and R&B then you got to recognize a rapper on some type of speed driven music as well. Cause you are rhyming and it a task, and it goes by people so fast that they don't recognize the beat, high pitch, high speed music, you actually doing some hard ass shit. The lack of recognition, since you're dealing with genres together so tight you need some recognition. So do you think that right now rap has got one of it's nuts shot off, with it's level of experimentation?

Zack: Well I think there's a whole second Hip Hop community that does recognize it, and then you have the other sector that has already seen the commercialization of Hip Hop, you know kinda deadened a medium that had infinite potential. So I understand the criticism because keeping, there's a whole segment of the Hip Hop community that just wants it to be just strictly beats, strictly beats and all that and I understand that.

Chuck D: Do you think strictly beats comes from, I only got ten years musical knowledge in my head so a new beat to me is really an old beat.

Zack: Yeah it's true and if it's done with live instrumentation, which is something that's coming back around full circle in our music. I think people really get into that but a lot of the criticism I take it with a grain. Because I think that Hip Hop as a genre has no boundaries. In reality it doesn't it's the constraints that people place on it that has the boundaries.

Chuck D: Do you think radio has something to do with it?

Zack: Radio has everything to do with it.

Chuck D: What they will play and what they won't play. There are songs that you guys got that should be played on black radio. Black radio's a mess, there are songs from your album that should've been played on black radio because they was hard driving rap songs for real. And once it falls into this melodramatic type of R&B, I really don't think it helps rap to be on an equal plane with other music cause other music at least have that "we'll make it believable with a performance."

Zack: I think that rap music in general is under attack. It's facing two fronts of attack and one of those is as an art form companies have only one thing in mind and that's to make their art work as comfortable as possible, move the units. That can have a definite stifling effect on the culture that is created through it (the music), because it's a culture of resistance.

Chuck D: When you up there and you guys are playing, the crazy things is you guys are actually saying something and switching up and playing grooves and it's more black than anything. Me as a black historian of sorts, I think it's fucked up when I look at somebody and they are sixteen or seventeen years old and their like "fucking crazy ass white boys playing that loud ass crazy shit". I really don't look at as the kid being at fault, I look at it as the information and educational system and I let him be schooled on where this fucking sound came from.

Zack: It's like if they knew they'd understand.

Chuck D: It's like my circle of guys their like 26, 27, 25. One of my writer guys was like I gotta get this. I had the CD Evil Empire I had to say, "Yo man you not leaving this fucking crib with it", he was straight buggin'. I try to be informative and educational with anyone of the guys that's in my surroundings. It helps us in writing rap, it helps in a daring to be different type of thing. And I always used to say, not to make a joke out of what Aerosmith did with Run DMC, we together took it all the way. They actually did a cover of a rap album, which was a big thing, then I said fuck it let's do a tour. That the music, this genre here and that genre there but together you'll see a good show to bottom.

Zack: Not to mention you have ten thousand young white kids coming and hearing Public Enemy.

Chuck D: And like oh. That's one of the things I think rap music is missing. When you guys play you actually propel your record. Some acts that come out it's live 'oh shit, let go back to the record', and that's another thing that's missing from the rap game. A group or a guy may come out with a song and you'll never see them and therefore you question the record. But regardless of the record sound if seeing them get down and get live on the real you going back to the record or to get the CD or to go and re-listen to it again. But that's what performances are for. But make a long story short you guys carved a niche, just keep on making that notch grow and you'll have a lot of groups to be proud of. So what do you think of the hybrid groups, the metal meshing or let's say what do you think of that particular stake?

Zack: I'm really critical of everything, but I haven't seen anyone, musically that has fussed it as tastefully as we have and provided it with such a strong backdrop for what we're gonna be doing and what we want to get done. I think we can bridge the gap between entertainment and activism first and foremost that's our goal. Musically I haven't seen anyone who haven't seen anyone who has fussed it as well and I'm waiting, I'm not saying that just to fucking blow my horn, I'm saying it because I haven't seen it. But there'll be others hopefully that can use the space that we created we encourage it.

Chuck D: How about when you guys play, it's straight up competitive shit right? I mean when you guys play against groups that are stuck in the genre of being reactionary and you guys come with that mew shit. Do you guys come on the stage with a particular thing "look we gonna send them the fuck home" (laughing and joking)

Zack: No not at all, cause we've been a couple of times chewed up and spit out. It was a treat playing with yall but the Beastie Boys did it to us one time but no one else has ever fucked with us though… (laughing and joking) …naw but that's not apart of it when we go up there we just try to stay focused. We feel like every time there's another person that'll re-examine their relationship.

Chuck D: And you know that's all apart of it though.

Zack: Yeah.

Chuck D: You guys got your issue that you really want to discuss. Half of the game is you got your point of view and then everybody else got their point of view and at the end of the day based on performance your point of view is gonna be dominate. (laughing and joking)

Zack: We hope so, but people they make up their own mind and we just want to make it available.

Chuck D: I be hearing that sometimes muthafukas don't even want to come on after you guys.

Zack: Sometimes that's true, I will admit.

Chuck D: They don't even want to fuck around with the intensity.

Zack: Well, we just gotta stay focused. I'm coming up on stage and I'm thinking about people that are suffering.

Chuck D: You got people that can't keep up with the intensity because their like trying to find a reason to be mad and you got a fucking reason to be mad. They might be mad like my fucking girl left me (while laughing), my fucking range rover got a dent in it, I forgot to get my moms flower for mother's day cause I was on tour, that type of shit. Meanwhile you rolling deep in fucking Mexico and seeing some shit and you coming on stage and muthafuckas can't really fuck that kind of intensity.

Zack: It is what it is I can't help it. I just gotta feel it, what I see. Every time I come back from there I learn. I just try to channel it, all that fear. I remember on time we were sleeping in this little school house, me and a lot of the students I helped to organize to get down there. We in this schoolhouse and the army was trying to run weapons through the village at might and the dogs were barking, we were fucking terrified. And I thought if I had to experience this everyday, that would be life in hell. So I just come back here and try to let people know there's people out there that don't even have what you have and trying to get something to survive. Let me just say a couple of things about before we cut out. That this struggle began and was eliminated because of some very harsh ass conditions. One hundred fifty thousand people have died there from curable diseases. The people there are responsible for producing 63% of all Mexico's hydroelectric power only a third of the people have lights in their homes. There's one doctor for every thousand people there are more veterinarians that there are doctors to help people, more veterinarians and rich hotel and landowners than there are doctors to help people. And that's where that struggle emanated from. And so when that thing happened on January 1st 1994 the people they decided that there was not no other option but to take up arms to try to acquire the basic necessities of their lives. And what happened as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement was as it was passed and implemented in Mexico it nullified article 27 in the Mexican constitution. Article 27 is the Article which guaranteed land rights to peasants, indigenous farmers, and to their families as a result of what happened in 1910. A million people died in Mexico in the revolution of 1910, and for this very reason which was nullified by NAFTA it was a death sentence for the people living down there. And so when I heard what jumped off I decided fuck man I'm not gonna rely on five or six intellectuals as a resource for what's going on down there and find out for myself. So one of the things we're gonna focus on this record is a strong solidarity movement, visual presence from the to the states, cause people got a lot to learn from the example they setting down there.