Legendary rapper Chuck D has seen a lot in his 55 years, but he hasn’t seen anything quite like what’s happening in 2016.
Well, once, maybe.
“A lot of stuff is going on,” Chuck D said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I’m old enough to remember 1968 as a kid: Dr. King getting shot, the convention rallies, the Mexico City Olympic protests, being personally part of a school strike – they had us out of school half the year in New York. So that was a crazy year for me as a kid. Looking back, they say that was a turbulent year. 2016 seems to be as weird, especially when you got all that stuff spewing from the top trying to run for political office. The rest of the world is doing STDH: shaking their damn head.”
That, in part, is why Chuck D is performing in Prophets of Rage with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. The group is the brainchild of Morello, who performed at the 2013 Grammy’s with Chuck D, LL Cool J, Travis Barker and DJ Z-Trip.
“It stuck in Tom’s head that this is something he would like to try,” Chuck D said. “Now I see it. Prophets of Rage. Coincidentally, for better of worse, the political situation in the United States is such a mess within and also outside looking in that, on paper, it seems like it’s an antidote to bad law, bad government ideas. Songs always transcend it. They go around the world. It’s up to us as musicians to make sense to people when the law can’t.”
Sadly, Chuck D is still trying to make sense of Muhammad Ali’s passing. Ali left an indelible impact on him as a kid.
“As a young black kid growing up in the ’60s, a lot of these things we didn’t understand,” Chuck D said. “We didn’t understand the Vietnam War. We didn’t know why we had to go from ‘Negro,’ which was on our birth certificate to ‘colored’ and also ‘black’ by the end of the decade. Muhammad Ali was that situation where he was going to define himself and not be defined from the outside. That struck us as youth. All that grew up watching Muhammad Ali– whether you’re black, white or whatever – a piece of Ali’s boldness to define yourself has always stuck with us as human beings.”