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In a time when Black America is outraged beyond words, three legends who are respected in the rap community not only for their talents, but their activism, are using their platform to confront racism and lack of justice.
Stetsasonic’s Professor Daddy-O called on Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Arrested Development’s Speech for the remix of his original “Bullets,” which was crafted to address the racial injustices and police brutality incidents involving George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others who have been directly impacted.
When asked about the primary inspiration behind the remix, Daddy-O told REVOLT that he wanted to give the movement against police brutality some theme music. “In the 60s and 70s, the struggle of our people always had musicians to help figure out, dissect, and even escape some of our pain. Throughout all the [recent] marching and protesting, music was noticeably missing,” Daddy-O explains. “Creativity is part of our spirit. Creativity is part of our history. We, as the group Night Train, want to provide that. It’s made to say we understand the pain and the plight, and we’re here to speak for you. We’re here to report, but also we’re here to stand beside our people right up to the door of a solution.”
REVOLT chopped it up with the MC, as well as Chuck D and Speech; officially known as the collective Night Train, to talk about amplifying Black voices through hip hop, using music as a form of advocacy, and shifts they’ve seen in the music industry. Read below.
Today, you released “BULLETS (Remix),” a song that speaks on racism. What inspired you to collaborate and why did you specifically want it released on Juneteenth?
Speech: We, the collective of myself, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and Daddy-O — officially called Night Train as a collective — [released] a song titled “BULLETS (Remix)” to address racism, injustice, police brutality and unfairness. The song and the collective is inspired by the ideology of music for the Black struggle. Others march, we rap. We are releasing it on Juneteenth to commemorate the awareness of freedom.
Daddy-O, what made you want to enlist Chuck D and Speech for this remix of yours?
Daddy-O: The reason I chose Chuck D of Public Enemy and Speech of Arrested Development is because I’ve always felt that the three of us were hip hop prophets of sorts. From Stetsasonic’s “Freedom or Death” to Arrested Development’s “Everyday People” to Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power,” our messages have clearly been seen. Sometimes we are the resistance, sometimes we fight the resistance. Either way, we voice what the people feel and breathe. Did I say breathe? Yes, breathe.
How has music, specifically rap, served as a form of advocacy for racial injustice within Black and brown communities?
Speech: Hip hop and rap served as a form of advocacy for racial injustice within the Black and brown communities by being heard anywhere from block parties to local clubs to radio. Rap music has been the voice of the people.
How has rap music served as a prediction tool for protests, sort of like calling out that history has been repeating itself?
Chuck D: Rap music calls out that history has been repeating itself through songs like “Self Destruction” by the Stop The Violence Movement, groups like Public Enemy and Stetsasonic and even more recently with Run The Jewels. In that way, we rappers could almost be called the prophets of rage.
Hip hop have always been very adamant about telling the stories of our communities from N.W.A. and Public Enemy to Kendrick Lamar and Vic Mensa. How have you seen the shift in the music industry since the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and obviously so many more to list?
Chuck D: The shift in the music industry is strangely silent. The music industry is not to be responsible. Us rappers are.
Do you believe that music artists with large platforms have a responsibility to speak up during these times? Especially those whose rise to fame has been in the hands of Black culture.
Chuck D: Of course. It’s simply the adult thing to do. Ducking from a responsibility is usually a child’s excuse.
Daddy-O: I believe artists with high degrees of what is labeled “social currency” should speak up. To that effort, I have begun production of “Self-Destruction Two” to involve young artists to address the pain.
Speech: I think speaking up is important all the time, and those with huge reach should not only speak up, but lift up grassroots organizations that are doing the actual work, so they can become influencers.
Each of you are known for your activism in the Black communities. What sparked your specific interest in being vocal?
Chuck D: I was born in 1960 and witnessed the turbulence decade as a child and saw it as a “normal” thing adults did. I had young parents who spoke out and they encouraged us as their children to do the same.
Daddy-O: I saw our children being misled and influenced by outside entities. I felt like if I had a voice, I needed to use it to educate the next generation. In the 70s, artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and James Brown helped our community to not only cope, but actually offered solutions and suggestions for our pain. I often say today that the television has replaced the record player in the back home. Later, becoming a rapper with Stetsasonic, I provided those answers through my own music.
Speech: My parents are activists. My mother owns the largest black newspaper in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Community Journal. So, [during] my childhood, we used to talk at the breakfast table about issues and solutions.
What advice do you have for anyone who may not feel like their platform is large enough to be heard? Where can someone start if they don’t know how?
Chuck : Every person can change something, but people should start one at a time —even with themselves. The burden of world change shouldn’t be on any one person’s shoulders or mind. In fact, how can one person change the world if they can’t even change their own mind?
Speech: I personally don’t know. That’s a problem with social media. There’s a data overload and algorithms become gatekeepers and filters. I worry about truth being able to spread under these scenarios.
Recently, Republic Records announced that it would remove the word “urban” from their verbiage for departments, music genres and employee titles. What are your thoughts on this motion in the music industry?
Daddy-O : Although the music business will make small changes like Republic Records recently erasing the name “urban” from their verbiage, and the head of Reddit stepping down and suggesting that a Black person take that position, the responsibility is ours as individual artists, managers and producers.
Chuck D: The term “urban” was cultural cancer to Black ownerships anyway. Notice urban music still promoted and presented Black artists, but they all were under corporate plantations be it record companies or radio video stations.
Speech: I’ve always hated the term [because] it diluted the diversity and power of Black music. Not all urban music is Black and not all Black music comes from urban areas.
How can music be used as a tool for healing during this era of COVID-19, senseless cop killings, and protests?
Daddy-O : Although COVID-19 has slowed people down, our ears and minds still work. We believe it’s time to listen.
Speech: Music gives inspiration, direction, world view, and cue points for people striving to make sense of the world. It also happens to be one of Black people’s biggest exports. If we don’t use music to heal, others will use various mediums to further destroy.
Chuck D: A good curation and teaching of music is necessary in the U.S.A. The storylines are loaded with historical fact reflection and timelines. Teaching people towards the quantity and quality of Black Music could save people from being stuck in their heads. In fact, all music can teach. The 60s were an amazing platform.
What words do you have for those who love our music, but fall silent when it comes to boldly standing with the Black community?
Daddy-O : I don’t usually pay attention to the posers who pretend to be allies for the clout. I’d rather concentrate on what we can do and implement.
Chuck D: That’s not new. They’ve always been around. We have to take a stand, we have to demand justice and not wait on others to do it for us.
Speech: I come from the school of thought where the music itself is our Black messaging board. In the clubs or on the streets, it speaks the message of our people. Even the issue of false allies is addressed in the music.
Listen to Daddy-O’s “Bullets (Remix) with Chuck D and Speech below. Happy Juneteenth, fam.