Return of the great rap rebel

Posted on June 12, 2008 

Return of the great rap rebel

Chuck D is at his local grocery store in Roosevelt, Long Island when I call him. ‘It’s my daughter’s birthday,’ he explains, ‘so I’m kind of busy.’ Surreally, I find myself asking him about rap, race and politics while he queues at the deli counter, then pays for his purchases. Given that it’s 8am in New York, this does not take too long.

‘It depends what you mean by early,’ he says, when I mention that I’ve never interviewed anyone before breakfast before. ‘Me, I got to get up just to keep up. I’m a multi-tasker. I was down with that stuff before they invented the term. You ask the questions, bro’, and I’ll roll with it.’

Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, aka Chuck D – the D stands for Dangerous – has been rolling with it for 20 years now. He still walks it like he talks it, still converses in extended sound bites, still rages against America’s mainstream political machine. He’s funny with it, though, and there’s a vulnerability about him that shows from time to time, mostly when he talks about himself – which is not very often – rather than about his life’s mission, which he expounds relentlessly. ‘Governments are the cancer of civilisation,’ he says at one point. ‘Government and culture are two diametrically opposed forces – the one blinds and oppresses, the other uplifts and unites.’

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