Professor Griff Of Public Enemy Takes Hip-Hop To Class


For more than two decades, Public Enemy has always stood on what they believe – and they made others stand up for change. Simply put, they have transformed music forever.

Now, as they prepare to be inducted into the 2013 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, Professor Griff speaks to their legacy, and what is still needed from each of us: First off, congrats on the 2013 Rock & Roll Of Fame nomination. How does it feel to know the impact of the group is still being felt?

Public EnemyProfessor Griff: We’re humbled, but we continue to work towards making a bigger impact. It’s basically fuel to our mission as a whole. It feels good to know that we  have this honor.  But the greatest benefit comes from doing the work, the actual ground work. In your words, “Revolution is NOT an event, it’s a process.” Explain what that means.

Professor Griff: You aren’t going to go to one event and get it. It’s a process. It takes time and effort. But sadly it’s only carried out by a few. What artists if any, do you feel are carrying the torch of Revolution today?

Professor Griff: Six artists that I feel are carrying the torch are Jay from Xclan, Wise Intelligent from PRT [Poor Righteous Teachers], Black Dot, Narubi Selah, Precise Science, and  Immortal Technique. Are artists too timid these days? It seems they can touch on subjects that are cool, but not those that can cause controversy. Do you agree?

Professor Griff: A lot of new artists play it safe. They want a paycheck. They aren’t too concerned with going too much out of the context, when it involves free thinking. Labels cater to high-end Pop artists; that’s just how it is. Good music gets shunned in a lot of cases. The artist with the message gets kicked to the curb. Do you feel that Public Enemy got the respect you deserved?

Professor Griff: Yes. The respect is evident all the time. When we do shows we have men, women,and  young people, all showing their appreciation for what we do. Dads bring their sons, it’s just a lot of people wanting our message to continue to thrive and live. I get it on a personal level as well. And even the aggravation. It’s a package deal, but all worth it. What are three things that you know now that you wish you would have known then?

Professor Griff: I would’ve known who runs and controls music and media. If we fully understood that, all of us would be better off. Another one would be to understand the matrix of power. In other words, those people like President Obama. Things like the voting process and the, as well. Lastly, I would’ve known myself better. That alone would change everything. What do you want people to remember most about Public Enemy?

Professor Griff: Public Enemy was a group that came in pure. We weren’t paid; we started from the bottom with the idea of revolution, to raise the consensus level of people. We feel we have reached that level to a certain degree. We want to be known as the group that spoke truth and power. What do you want your legacy to be?

Public Enemy logoProfessor Griff: My legacy is parallel with the group’s. The work I do inside and outside of Public Enemy all works together. I want to be remembered as someone who loved Black people, all people, and it all starts with the love I have for myself. I feel God gave me this mission because I can handle it. If I couldn’t, he wouldn’t have given it to me – it’s as simple as that to me. I don’t worry about what people say; they don’t have my mission. I’m often asked how I keep going, and never look weighed down. I tell people it’s because I don’t smoke, drink, or chase women. Yes, temptations and distractions come, but I focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. You have to be God-centered and God-rooted. Can you share with our readers a fact that most people might not know about the group?

Professor Griff: We aren’t as hardcore as people assume. There’s a comedic relief side to the group. We know how to have fun. Basically, there’s a method to the madness. We grew up together, so there’s a love  between us that people can’t comprehend. A lot of people don’t know that I was a DJ and used to see Chuck D in the audience. I was actually the one that made him part of what we were doing. He, in turn, did that for us when he got his deal. We worked together then on all levels, and we still do. Is there anything else you want to leave us with?

Professor Griff: These projects we’re coming out with only speak to the fact that the work doesn’t stop. After the awards, that’s when you use that platform to reach those you couldn’t before. My next book is called Acapella Revolution. I have to continue to speak out on the things that have to be fixed. We’re losing young women to AIDS, and men to prison and the grave. There’s still so much to be done. Not just by me, or Public Enemy, but by all of us.

Tawni Fears is a freelance writer and contributor to Follow her on Twitter (@brwnsugaT).