PUBLIC ENEMY with GRAND DADDY I.U., DJ RED ALERT, DOPE POETS SOCIETY and MICHIE MEE as part of Canadian Music Week at the Docks (11 Polson), Friday (March 9), doors at 9 pm. $25-$30. 416-870-8000. www.cmw.net. Rating: NNNNN
Behind the wheel, rolling through the middle of Kansas, Chuck D says he can't see anything through the windshield. But zero-visibility driving conditions don't stop the booming voice of Public Enemy from politicking about America not being ready for Barak Obama, Canada's racist border policy and bin Laden still not having been caught because "I dunno, maybe he looks too much like Scotty Pippen."
Which is to say that in one conversation, the rapper, writer, activist and radio host speaks on more actual issues than your Diddys, Jeezys, Jay-Zs and Weezys have done in all their lyrics combined. Asked how he feels about the total lack of political consciousness among the biggest players in hiphop, he fires back:
"Why would I just trust the biggest players in the game? I mean, there's people who have their own labels, their MySpace pages and their YouTube videos, and I trust them. Those are the ones I check out."
On the creative front, Public Enemy's 11th studio album will drop later this year on his independent label, Slamjamz (www.slamjamz.com). Last year's Rebirth Of A Nation was a step up from 2005's New Whirl Odor, which found Chuck D's political rants undone by pitiful production. Sadly, that flaccid disc furthered Public Enemy's slide into obscurity. Can a 46-year-old rapper in a young man's game still be relevant?
"Who said it's a young man's game? How young you wanna go? Ten years old? There's been 27 years of rap music. Do you seriously think an 11-year-old could rhyme? Go on MySpace and look - they spit and they make beats.... What's old enough and what's too old? That's what I'm sayin'.
"When I first started MCing, right, they used to be able to say that once you was 20, man, you was too old. Anybody over 20, they gotta just retire. But if it's a young man's game, it means you're too old to even follow it.
"Back to the relevance of a 35-, 45- or 55-year-old MC. You know a 40-year-old MC can say a lot of things that people can draw from."
I wonder what the 40-plus MC will say about the success of his clock-rocking hype man, newfound reality TV star Flavor Flav, whose salacious, scandalous second season of Flavor Of Love just hit DVD.
"Flavor Flav is a member of Public Enemy," says Chuck D. "He always will be. So the recent fame, that's because of TV cameras. Any camera turned onto Flav, he's gonna actually make the camera an unbelievably useful instrument. He's a one-of-a-kind greatest hype man ever in hiphop and a great musician and artist in his own right.
"I always thought Flavor was funny and great. So the recent fame thing, you throw a major corporation's camera on him and, boom, that's what's gonna happen."