Inpoints Talks to Chuck D About Youth Culture
Last month, Inpoints sat down with Chuck D of Public Enemy before he went on stage at Louder Than A Bomb’s Sweet 16 Benefit. Chuck shared his views of youth culture and how his experience connects with the young poets, emcees, and artists he was there to celebrate.
With only ten minutes of his time, we dove right into it.
“Where were you at when you were the same age as these young Louder Than A Bomb poets?” we asked.
“R&B kickin’ our ass. Meaning Reagan and Bush kicking our ass from 1980 on up. That’s what spurred us to say some things.”
Right away it became clear that what motivated Chuck D to create Public Enemy was the same thing motivating youth today. It is the events and conditions that surround young people that inspire them to create and take action. For Chuck D it was Reagan, for today’s youth it is things like Donald Trump (where he gives Chicago youth props for “shutting him down”), racism, xenophobia, and the treatment of minorities by police.
“I think the best way to engage young people is to challenge them to get engaged with younger people.”
The difference for Chuck is that back in his day it was easy to shut down youth voice. They had to organize mass movements to even be heard. That is not the case today. With technology, the Internet, and social media, young people have unprecedented access to speak out. Expression and the act of speaking out itself can catalyze the formation of movements.
“I think young people should always work on trying to have the perspective of who they are in society,” says Chuck D. “They can say the right thing, or they can say the wrong thing. It’s their option.”
When it comes to engaging young people Chuck offers a particularly interesting insight. “I think the best way to engage young people is to challenge them to get engaged with younger people,” he says. He thinks if a seventeen year old isn’t willing to talk to a twelve year old why would they be receptive to someone older engaging with them? He also says that older people need to play their lane. “Be who you are, when you try too hard to appeal to young people it comes off as corny.”
With movements like Louder Than A Bomb, which was inspired by his song of the same name, Chuck D is aware of the role he plays in supporting the next generation. He is fond of quoting Bruce Lee who says that “I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to help you explore yourself.”
The only thing old heads and OGs like himself need to do is “provide structures for young folk, to give them some kind of arena for them to do their thing. That’s cool.”