REVIEW | MISTACHUCK (CHUCK D) ‘CELEBRATION OF IGNORANCE’ (@MRCHUCKD)

chuck dPub­lic Enemy are no strangers to using bas­ket­ball as an ana­logy for the human con­di­tion, par­tic­u­larly the socio-eco­nom­ic game which we are all sub­jec­ted to.

Cel­eb­ra­tion of Ignor­ance is the third stu­dio album by Chuck D. Released under his guise of Mis­tachuck which first appeared on his debut solo album Auto­bi­o­graphy of Mis­tachuck that was released in 1996. It is also a concept album on the life and work of bas­ket­ball play­er and act­iv­ist LeBron James and the cur­rent state of affairs under the Trump régime.

The album is a ten track col­lab­or­a­tion with Clev­e­land rap­per Jahi of PE2.0, a Pub­lic Enemy spin off pro­ject that aims to revis­it and rein­ter­pret clas­sic Pub­lic Enemy tracks. This rais­on d’être appears to be at work on this album. The album was pro­duced by the fel­low PE2.0 col­lab­or­at­or an film maker C‑Doc.

The open­er ‘TiredOf45 (12.30.84)’ harks back to the early rock/rap of Def Jam with the refrain “Lebron build­ing schools, 45 build­ing walls”, tak­ing aim at Don­ald Trump who appears on the album as “45”, his name not worthy of respect. Think Book of Rev­el­a­tions where an attack on Emper­or Nero is veiled under the monik­er 666.  It’s a jump up party anthem in the vein of Shut Em Down (Pete Rock Remix), that will no doubt be a fix­ture of future Proph­ets of Rage gigs.

The date in the title is the birth­day of LeBron James, whom Chuck D has col­lab­or­ated with through music and social pro­jects. James’ char­ac­ter appears through­out the album as an anti­thes­is to Trump and as a saviour of human­ity.

The second track, ‘BOT’, fea­tures scratch­ing and cut­ting remin­is­cent of early Pub­lic Enemy and Chuck D’s lyr­ics pack a bit­ing punch of social com­ment­ary as usu­al but this time they about the inter­net age. BOT refers to social media bots that are con­trolling our nar­rat­ives with arti­fi­cial argu­ments and knee jerk reac­tions, and also to the tech­no­logy that is enslav­ing us.

‘Ain’t No’ which fea­tures Wakrat, a group foun­ded by Rage Against the Machine and Proph­ets of Rage bassist Tim Com­mer­ford, is a 90s rock rap piece, its dis­tor­ted gui­tars and “Tired of you f*cking with me” chor­us should appeal to Rage Against the Machine fans.

Bluesy gui­tars fea­ture on ‘Cave­man­ic’, think grunge meets Pub­lic Enemy à la Kool Thing by Son­ic Youth, which is no sur­prise giv­en Chuck D’s liner notes, this is a throw­back album.

The stretched gui­tars cut­ting in and out of the track in the instru­ment­al break towards the end provide the most exper­i­ment­al point on the album and the track as a whole sounds psy­che­del­ic in parts. The lyr­ics deal with the ali­en­a­tion and feel­ing of power­less­ness people have in the world. This adds to the grungy feel­ing of the track. The dumb­ing down of soci­ety and it’s regres­sion to the cave­man like men­tal­ity of Trump’s policies is aso addressed here. It is also about the zom­bi­fic­a­tion of soci­ety caused by tech­no­logy. The imagery of people stuck in their man­caves recalls the inter­net addicted shut ins who have peppered our news media in recent years and Pla­to’s cave allegory where one has to break free and see the truth.

‘Mut­ter­ERT’, Starts off as a jazzy track in the style of Pete Rock, the vocal sample at the begin­ning is an attack on Neo-con­ser­vat­ism. The lyr­ics cement Chuck D’s place as the Bob Dylan of Hip Hop. The deliv­ery is like Earth People from Dr. Octa­goneco­logyst and this track uses sim­il­ar imagery but is more earth-cent­ric, in fact it power­fully con­vinces you that damm this world is in trouble on so many levels. Our polit­ics, eco­nom­ics and addic­tion to tech­no­logy have now made us the ali­ens on moth­er earth.  The song cul­min­ates in a mouth organ cas­cade, bring­ing the albums blues influ­ence and that of six­ties protest songs again to the fore­front .

sPEak On It’ is anoth­er heavy rock track which should go down well at Proph­ets of Rage gigs. The track flows nicely into ‘Free­BLACK’ which is text­book Pub­lic Enemy. Chuck D takes the soap­box for more socially con­scious lyr­ics on escap­ing the sys­tem over a basic drum track. Its min­im­al­ism mak­ing it more power­ful against the pre­vi­ous rock song with a siren sound that is almost like the icon­ic whistle on Rebel Without a Pause.

 ‘Black­ni­fi­cient’ a slow track, the main sample shows the album’s soul influ­ence. The lyr­ics again con­sist of issues rel­ev­ant to our times and also inter­net slang acronyms which are symp­to­mat­ic of our cur­rent day. The main chor­us of “Our sig­ni­fic­ance is infin­ite” offers an anti­dote to the hope­less­ness and apathy of today. The empower­ing lyr­ics hark back to the early days of con­scious Hip Hop like KRS-One and also the civil rights move­ment.

Cel­eb­ra­tion of Ignor­ance’ is the album’s title track and the most dir­ect attack on Trump, It almost sounds G‑Funk in places, it is more an inter­lude with social com­ment­ary by Chuck D. It’s remin­is­cent of DJ Shadow’s ‘Why Hip Hop sucks in ’96’ but more like “why the world sucks in 2019”.

It addresses the prob­lems of today like “The dumb­ing down of Amer­ica”, and fea­tures a cri­tique of the cur­rency of today, “30 second sound­bites”, which will even­tu­ally count down to 1 second sound­bites. The inter­lude then ends with fade out into a void, prob­ably a pause to take in the implic­a­tions of the lyr­ics.

The next track marks a hope­ful and angry return. “Tiredof45 10.18.18”is a reprise of the open­ing track, and closes the album, The date mark­ing Lebron James’ Lakers debut. James has hin­ted at run­ning for office in 2020, his first year of eli­gib­il­ity. Is this album then Chuck D’s endorse­ment of the King of Akron for pres­id­ent?

This album is a refresh­ing return to socially con­scious Hip Hop in the cur­rent cli­mate of cheap club tracks. It is an exhil­ar­at­ing listen and when it’s over you really feel like tak­ing a stand. Music­ally it harks back to the early days of the genre and shows vast music­al influ­ence, in part gleamed from Proph­ets of Rage, and Pub­lic Enemy’s earli­er rock sampling. Fans of Pub­lic Enemy and Chuck D will not be dis­ap­poin­ted. It’s a great album that tran­scends the Hip Hop genre through its music­al pal­let but son­ic­ally there is noth­ing much that is new here, not that that was ever the point.

A joint by DJ ISURU #1

 

 

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DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU

DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground.

About DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU
DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground.