I could write about a million things related to Hopscotch Music Fest here in Raleigh this weekend, but I’m going to pick one little part of one little segment of one little thing. I want to remember what I said to Chuck D. He’s the lead singer of Public Enemy, and if you don’t know who he is, well then I’ll ask you to look him up. I have thousands of photos to sort through now, and like the bad writer that I am, I’m going to make you do the legwork yourself.
Chuck D spoke at the Raleigh City Museum as part of a panel just before Public Enemy went on. The panel started at around 4:15, and they didn’t finish until around 7:40. I stayed for the whole thing, and if you know me, then you know that (1) I had to be pretty damn interested and (2) it had to be pretty damn interesting. There were all kinds of other things going on in Raleigh that I could have left to go to, but I shrugged them all off to stay. Dinner was a piece of pizza my friend Shannon brought to me (with a Lactaid – my girl knows me). I sat front and center and listened, completely riveted the whole time – not in a “Chuck D is Jesus” kind of way, but more just knowing that this is a real man who has really lived. He listens, he’s thought about things, he’s real. He has something to say. It’s not agenda that he’s pushing. He’s just been around a long, long time, and I’ve been listening to him since I was about 19 years old.
I won’t tell you all about the talk. There was a guy there from Rolling Stone who’s going to be putting a piece on the online site who’ll do a much better job. There were many questions for Chuck and the rest of the panel. I just wanted to make a comment and thank him. Here’s the basic gist of what I said. I wanted to get it down, sort of to share with my parents, but like I said – I wanted to remember before it left my fragile, imperfect brain:
Lots of the people here are talking from the perspective of being 30-something or younger, and some of you guys on the panel are older (in your 50’s). I’m 40, and I’m not from the suburbs like some of the other people here. I had a little bit of an unusual experience in that I grew up in Atlanta in the city, but my parents kept me in public schools during all that flight to the suburbs, so a lot of my fellow students were black. And all that Cosby Show, Michael Jordan, Oprah stuff was going on, but it was safe, like you said. And then there were the black kids at school. And even though we saw them all day every day, they never talked to us white kids about what it was like to be black. We weren’t privy to that conversation. So when I went off to college where a lot of the kids were white, up at Oberlin where we all thought we were so liberal, PE came out, and it was so different. It’s like we finally had this chance to hear all that stuff we weren’t supposed to hear before. Those things that black people were pissed about but that they weren’t talking about on the Cosby Show. We were old enough that our parents had no say in what we were listening to, and we were ALL OVER Nation of Millions. When Fear of a Black Planet came out, the local records store, Sarge’s, was selling it like hotcakes. I remember Mike’s little legal pad “PE, PE, PE” all the way down the line. We left the library every night when it closed to head to the ‘Sco to dance to that, and we loved it. So I just wanted to thank you for that. Noone else was letting us hear any of it.
It was a long thank you, but I can’t tell you how glad I was to say it to him. I was right up front – about 8 feet in front of him – where I’d been sitting for over three hours. There were a few more questions after mine about the record industry, mostly aimed at 9th Wonder. After it ended, I got Chuck D to sign my copy of the 33 1/3 book (again, look it up, because I have so many pix to edit!). No idea what he wrote because it’s so hard to read, and then I walked down the street with Chuck D (holy shit) to City Plaza where he played to a massive crowd in the rain. And that was definitely the highlight of my Hopscotch weekend.