“That’s a nice t-shirt!” Chuck D is admiring the image of Brian Jones on GQ.com’s chest backstage at the Heineken Open’er Festival in Gdynia, northern Poland. “They call us the Rolling Stones of the rap game. I don’t know if I’m Mick and Flavor’s Keith. I think we switch back and forth!” Public Enemy have just come offstage after a storming set which included the first ever performance of their new single “I Shall Not Be Moved” as well as a host of songs from their canonical albums It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear of A Black Planet. Despite the high-intensity performance we’ve just witnessed, Chuck D, now aged 51, exudes a Zen-like state of calm. All around us people are cracking open drinks and digging into food while main-stage headliners Franz Ferdinand have shyly snuck in to hang out with the hip-hop legends. It’s 25 years since Public Enemy dropped their debut record Yo! Bum Rush the Show and to mark the anniversary they’re currently preparing two new albums, Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp and The Evil Empire Of Everything. Here, Chuck D and Flavor Flav tell us about staying politically aware on tour and share their advice for life in typically righteous fashion.
GQ: When you’re on tour here in Europe are you very aware of the history of the countries you visit?
Chuck D: That’s very important. In Belgium, we dedicated “Fight The Power” to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The memory of Patrice Lumumba will not be in vain. You always have to be aware where you’re going to when you step into somebody’s home. That’s the thing that sets us apart as different. We’re not the normal rap group.
Do you think young rappers should be more politically conscious?
CD: Everybody can do whatever they’ve got to do. Younger generations can have a good time or whatever. There’s no obligation that they’ve got to do something, but every party has security. Public Enemy is the security of the hip-hop party.
Flavor Flav said onstage that this is your 81st tour. How do you keep things fresh?
CD: Just travelling the world. Look! He’s consumed by that sandwich!
[Flavor Flav walks in eating a ham sandwich bigger than his own head.]
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
CD: There’s been plenty of advice. I would say: “Do what you like to do well, so that you can do it for a long time.”
Flavor Flav: Best advice that I ever got is to do whatever it takes to make myself happy, so that I’ll be able to make others happy. If I’m not happy, I can’t make other people happy.
CD: That’s what he told me the other day. Trust me. We had a conversation about this.
FF: That’s real talk. I’ll tell you one thing you can’t do: you can’t put your shoes on, then your socks on.
[Chuck D starts laughing]
FF: That’s what I was taught! I was taught never to be an asshole, because an asshole gets nothing but a good wipe. Do you know what I mean? That’s exactly what I teach in America. If you’re an asshole, then you’re gonna get wiped. If you’re in a situation where you’re being forced to be an asshole, then you have to change it to make it work for yourself. You get what I’m saying? I love you, baby!
Originally published by British GQ.