Chuck D Takes on MTV

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(originally published by the Ashville Global Report)

Chuck D, front man of the Hip-hop group Public Enemy, is once again at odds with the mainstream music world, this time over song lyrics that MTV finds objectionable. So what is the word in question? Is it booty, bitch, ho? No, the word in question is “free”, as in “free Mumia and H. Rap Brown”.

The “standards board” at MTV found the reference to these political prisoners objectionable, and threatened not to air the video “Gotta give the peeps what they need” video, off their new album Revolverlution, unless the word free was removed from the song. Chuck D, no fan of censorship said no.

According to the Public Enemy web site, Chuck D claims that MTV originally asked that all references to Mumia be dropped, but said that after refusing to make the change MTV asked that the word free be removed.

In a commentary written by Chuck D in September, Chuck said “I refused to edit out the Mumia audio and visual. That’s crazy and they must be out of their fucking mind,” he said.

“The thing that has myself going to war is they [MTV] want to vanish all audio and visual references to Mumia Abu Jamal,” Chuck D said in the editorial. “This is serious in a climate where they’re playing the hell out of Nelly and Khia dumbing American kids down to ‘it’s so hot I’mma take my clothes off’ down from ‘my neck to the crack of my ass’ with a ‘shot of Courvosier'”

“If they think having a political viewpoint in music is irrelevant, it’s because they’ve taken the Nazi approach in censoring it themselves,” he said.

The song, which is the first track on the new Revolverlution album also contains political lyrics like “COINTELPRO again, here we go again,” refereeing to the Bush administrations embracement of “counter-intelligence” against political decent.

Chuck D has been at odds with the music industry before, over his support of Napster- an internet music file sharing web site. When asked recently if young people are still buying Public Enemy albums he replied that young are not buying albums, they’re burning their own.

An MTV spokeswomen said that the station had barred videos because of their content in the past, but went on to admit that this may be the first time that political speech is the reason.

After two weeks of wrangling, MTV and Public Enemy reached a compromise. The video itself will air in its entirety on MTV2’s hip-hop show, premiering on September 30, but not on the normal MTV station. First hand accounts on the world wide web have stated that the video aired unedited on the MTV Europe station in early September, before the controversy started.

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