Interview with Public Enemy Artist and Lecturer, Prof. Griff, by Tolu Olorunda.
“Prof. Griff” is a Hip-Hop artist, community activist, lecturer and so much more. He has accumulated enormous knowledge, over the years, in his struggle for the liberation of young black and brown minds. Prof. Griff is a member of the legendary group, Public Enemy, but he has also branched-out and pursued solo projects, in his musical career. He is a vociferous lecturer, who has taught at Colleges and High Schools for some time, while trying to stress the importance of understanding the texture of the new wave of Hip-Hop in the 21st century. Along with fellow lecturer, known as “The Black Dot,” he has spoken extensively on the “vibratory frequencies” and “chakras” that influence the majority of music, news and entertainment packages -- which dominate the mainstream-channels today. In 2007, he was featured in an underground documentary, entitled, “Turn off Channel Zero.” The documentary was constructed for some candid-analysis of the dynamic effects of Media Empires – such as Viacom – on the minds, hearts and souls of young black and brown youth. Professor Griff is a dedicated and relentless fighter for Truth and Justice, who has steadfastly criticized the Hip-Hop Industry for its opulence, materialistic-obsession, misogyny and destructive-content. I had the opportunity to speak with him on issues pertinent to Black America – focusing on three pivotal pillars – with regards to the incivility of today’s young folks, the responsibility of the adults, and the complicity of commercial Hip-Hop in the destruction of black heritage:
Thanks for joining us, Professor Griff. I want to go right-off-the-bat to an issue that is deeply pressing: Teenage Pregnancy. Psychologist, Frances Cress Welsing, speaks of teenage-pregnancy -- being as a result of an emotional-overdose in young black girls? Do you agree with that inference, and what are effectual means of combating it?
I agree with it wholeheartedly, and in order to combat it – just as the great philosophers and teachers who came before us advocated – we need to “know thyself.” And in order to know thyself, we need to know our open enemy also. There’s a DVD out now titled, “Medical Apartheid;” it explains in detail the experimentation on young black girls during slavery. When you look at how the black woman was used in slavery – to produce multiple slave children – and you put it under a microscope, you then incorporate it into the education of young children in the home. We can also ‘offset’ teenage pregnancy (in our community) by changing certain behaviors.
TV and Radio seem to be the primary sources of entertainment and stimulation for young black/brown kids. How does one utilize those channels in order to reach them?
You don’t; you turn them off. There’s nothing that our open enemy would put on his major networks – as far as entertainment – that would educate our children. We need to stop thinking that way; that’s absolutely ridiculous. Several years ago, investigative researcher, Cory Johnson, put certain cartoons under the microscope. He talked about the perversion of subliminal suggestions and advertising that goes on in the context of three-minute cartoons. Furthermore, most of our actresses and actors are not concerned with what goes on in the lives of the younger ones.
It’s no secret that the majority of Black and Brown kids are dying mentally, morally and spiritually. What is your diagnosis of the state of the young community, and what are the prescriptions that you offer?
You have to primarily put those dynamics under the microscope. If we’re dying spiritually, we’re dying simply because there are no diets -- as far as the educational element is concerned. If what Dr. Cress Welsing said in “The Isis Papers” is correct – with regards to Racism and White Supremacy being both local and global -- we need to take this issue more seriously. We are letting our open enemy destroy the minds of our young people in the third and fourth grade. If our kids are spiritually-educated in religious institutions on Sunday Mornings, what do we expect at the end of the day? And to write a prescription for that, the hearts, minds and souls of our young people’s destiny must be put back into our own hands; and until we take the daunting task of educating our young people, we’re going to remain in this position.
What’s your overall-assessment of African Americans in the mainstream of the media beltway?
Well, that’s a very political-oriented question, and in most cases, the average-person answering it would tend to be more politically-correct. But, if the belt tightens within the beltway; what do you think would happen to Black people attempting to be more politically-correct in the arena of politics. First of all, let’s define politics: Politics is the science of governing people. If black people can’t govern themselves, then who are we governing? We presently have a fundamental disconnect with our young people. I sat on a panel at Martin Luther King Library, in Washington D.C - where the focus was “Bridging the Gap: The Civil Rights movement vs. Hip-Hop community” - and we couldn’t even come to amicable terms. So, we need to bridge the gap, and work on those agendas that never reach the news stations and TV networks.
In the documentary “Turn Off Channel Zero,” you spoke of “raising the dead;” can you elaborate on that?
What I mean by raising the dead is, raising the mentally and spiritually dead, from the grave of ignorance. And, ignorance is bliss; a lot of people just want to remain deaf, blind and dumb. We also have to understand that it is not going to be an easy task; to tell someone that ‘Lil Wayne’ is not “the best rapper” of all time, provokes a fight. And, we need to understand that dynamic.
As an historian, what role did slavery play vis-à-vis the present crisis of Black and Brown disunity?
Well, slavery was three-fold, and it depends on how you view it. The way I view it, nothing good came out of it; and those in the struggle for liberation and mind-revolution feel the same way too. So, as far as I’m concerned, slavery did nothing good for black people, and that’s the bottom-line.
Moving on to Hip-Hop; how destructive is - that element of what you coined “disposable music” in - Hip-Hop today?
Well, we’re talking of Hip-Hop being co-opted; i.e. the upper/middle-echelons of the music industry having the ability to market and develop the new Hip-hop sound. Also, N.W.A (Niggaz with Attitude) was used sort of as a template for every other Hip-Hop act that came after it. And then the movies that came out such as, Boyz n the Hood, and Menace II Society, set the template and frequency for what the future Hip-Hop sound would be. Prior to Hip-Hop being “niggerized,” we put out images that uplifted the people, but now Hip-Hop has grown to be very destructive. I’m doing a lecture-series now, called “Destroying Hip-Hop’s Appetite of Self-Destruction,” because unfortunately, all we’re deriving right now from Hip-Hop is low-vibratory frequency. Hip-Hop was once the voice of the voiceless, and a sub-culture of our ultimate/grand culture, and those are some of the things we need to understand.
In the late 1980’s Public Enemy emerged and changed the industry and culture of Hip-Hop forever. But, can you rewind and take us back to the beginning -- and how oblivious you might have been to the significance of what you we’re doing at the time?
It was definitely one of those things that we didn’t initially recognize, but was guided by the spirit. We didn’t know that what we we’re doing – in the context of those 4 or 5 albums - was going to change the course. But, most important was what we we’re doing outside of the music – such as, the prisons we visited, the hospitals we visited, and the projects we visited – that made the larger difference. Of course, we we’re blinded in hindsight, because we didn’t know that we we’re going to raise a nation of millions or 5,000 leaders. Stevie Wonder said that, “when you believe in things that you don't understand you will suffer.” We we’re trying to resurrect and reflect back on the “Black Panther Party.” We didn’t know that we we’re going to start a mind-revolution, but we knew that we we’re going to start something, so we had a goal.
Public Enemy gaining access to Def Jam is still looked upon as a phenomenon today – as many ‘conscious-artists’ lament their inability to get ‘looked upon’ by a mainstream/major record-label. How did the Def Jam thing happen; and being that your message was black-nationalistic in nature, how come no one saw the threat you we’re posing?
They trivialized what we we’re doing. They thought it was cute; and just innocent kids with Malcolm X key chains. No one saw it coming, and they didn’t think that Public Enemy would hit that hard. They heard our music on a College radio station, and automatically assumed that we we’re clawless. Also, initially, they just wanted to sign Chuck D – not the other 6 guys. And then, Chuck D incorporated “The Bomb Squad,” my community activism and Flavor Flav. More so, with Flavor Flav, because they assumed that we couldn’t be dangerous with a ‘clown’ on the stage with us. So, when we stepped up to the plate, and they found out that we we’re raising the conscience-level of black people, we caught them by surprise. By the time they found out our true objective, it was too late. It was too late, because by that time, we had thousands of white kids devoted to our music. And, we incorporated those white kids into our thrust of revolution. Those white kids came to our concerts and carried the messages back to the suburbs. Finally, Def Jam tried to regurgitate our music, and slowly tried to chip away Public Enemy by eliminating its members, one by one – such as giving Flavor-Flav a reality show. From the looks of it today, they might have successfully neutralized Public enemy – and it was by design.
Lastly, what are your upcoming projects – both musical and social?
I can’t give my personal plans up - on an open-interview - but we plan on uniting the political-action networks. What’s wrong with Talib Kweli, Mos-Def, Common, Public Enemy and KRS-One sitting down together to put forth a 4-point agenda to be adhered to? Such as: NO more disrespect of our women in Hip-Hop videos; and NO more ‘bling-blinging’ of Diamonds out of South Africa, Sierra Leone and The Congo; and NO more ‘big I’ and ‘little u’; and NO more signing of contracts with Beer and Liquor companies – which inversely further the destruction of our communities. If we can put forth this platform out, and the artists give their words, things will certainly change.
Thank you so much for your input sir, we sincerely appreciate it. Prof. Griff can be contacted at: http://www.myspace.com/professorgriffofpublicenemy
This interview was conducted by Tolu Olorunda, Staff Writer for YourBlackWorld.com