This is shaping up to be an extremely fruitful year for Public Enemy: the veteran hip-hop group will release two albums, Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp in June and The Evil Empire of Everything in September.
"They're totally separate albums," Chuck D tells Rolling Stone. "But 25 years ago, it probably would have been called a double album. And maybe 25 years ago, it would have been called an extended A-side or extended B-side. But now, in today's digital space, we thought it's very important to be able to slow the listener down. The fact that you work on something, and a reviewer or a listener listens to it on their iPod or their file in about 15 or 20 seconds, it's like, 'Wait a minute. Slow down.'"
Chuck D describes the albums as "fraternal twins. Unidentical. And these records will talk to each other." Both albums will feature numerous guests, including Brother Ali, Henry Rollins, Tom Morello, Z-Trip, Large Professor, Bumpy Knuckles and Gerald Albright.
As for confirmed song titles, Chuck D says, "One song title just emerged. It's still the same song, but it talks about so many things that are pertinent to the issue, and it's called 'Beyond Trayvon.' Another title is 'Catch the Thrown.'" But don't expect the tunes to reflect a specific Public Enemy era of the past. "Public Enemy has never made two albums alike," he says. "This is all its own ilk."
Public Enemy are aiming to tour heavily behind the releases – beginning in May, the band plans on touring Australia, Europe and Brazil. After that, they will launch the "Hip Hop Gods" tour of the United States in the fall, which will see Public Enemy joined by other classic hip-hop artists. "People like EPMD, Naughty by Nature," notes Chuck D. "We want to be able to show rap artists who ask us, 'How do we do what you guys do?' Keep going 25 years in a row, releasing what we want when we want, playing whatever we want when we want – that type of thing. Just like classic rock, we want to do the same thing in hip-hop. It's that time."
But first up for Chuck D, he will induct his friends the Beastie Boys into the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame. "It came about because they requested, and definitely it's an honor to do so. The third hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a very important juncture of rap and hip-hop."
Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys first crossed paths in 1987. "We were on the License to Ill tour. That was our first tour, and it was very influential in Public Enemy developing a stage show. It was '(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)', with the big phallus popping out of the stage. It was just ridiculous – it was a mind-blowing show. The beer cans… it was just like, 'What the fuck?'"
Finally, how did Chuck D's unexpected guest appearance on Meat Loaf's latest release, Hell in a Handbasket, come about? "Meat Loaf is [Anthrax guitarist and former Public Enemy collaborator] Scott Ian's father-in-law. I think he was looking for something on his album that answered to a dynamic that he didn't want to do himself. So he reached out to Scott, Scott reached out to me, and I said sure."