Monday, July 21, 2008

FMC in the Windy City

FMC's Ann Chaitovitz welcomes everyone to the Public Enemy discussion.

Thank you, Chicago!

FMC rocked the Windy City last week, at both a discussion of Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the Pitchfork Music Festival.

On Thursday, July 17, FMC and Pitchfork co-hosted the "It Takes a Nation" panel at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater. The event was moderated by media professor and documentary filmmaker Kembrew McLeod, who is the driving force behind Creative License, FMC's upcoming book about sampling.

With such a chatty and charismatic panel, Kembrew was less like an interviewer and more a director of conversation. But it was cool — we got all the answers we wanted and more. Hank Shocklee and Keith Shocklee are members of Public Enemy's original Bomb Squad production team, and Chuck D is one of the most significant talents to ever rock a mike. PE Media Assassin Harry Allen is an incredibly articulate hip-hop journalist and activist. Together, they talked about the band's history, starting with the Shocklee's early DJ careers, and moving through the sonic and poetic rationale behind PE's greatest achievement.

"We didn’t call it hip-hop culture — that came later," Keith Shocklee said of their humble beginnings. "We were just kids in the youth center playing songs back to back."

Harry Allen recalled being impressed by this crew even at the earliest stages. "At that point, people thought rap was a fad – that it would just go away," he explained. "These are the first guys I ever met that took this culture really seriously, and whose attention to detail matched my own. They understood the science of how music worked."

The panelists engaged in freewheeling conversation for two-and-a-half hours before a rapt full house. It was easy to see why the band made such a lasting impression on the hip-hop world; their intelligence and wit is impossible to suppress. (We'll be posting video of the talk soon, courtesy PitchforkTV.)

The following night, PE played It Takes a Nation in its entirety at the Pitchfork Festival. Need we tell you it was awesome? FMC rode out the weekend at the fest, offering information about our programs and campaigns, including Rock the Net and the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT). We also gave a heads up about an upcoming musicians' seminar that takes place in Chicago on September 22. (More on that event real soon!)

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