Okayplayer kicks off its new video series Needle to the Groove with Chuck D, who spoke about some of his favorite vinyl records.
Have you ever wondered what some of your favorite artists, entertainers, and public figures’ most beloved vinyl records are? Well, this is what Needle to the Groove is all about. Okayplayer’s newest video series, Needle to the Groove is dedicated to speaking with vinyl lovers and collectors across the world about some of their favorite records, and why they bring them comfort.
Our inaugural episode begins with Chuck D, one of hip-hop’s greatest MCs who has the most commanding, distinct, and powerful voice in the genre. He is best known as the leader of the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, whose revolutionary music is beloved by everyone from Ice Cube to the late Kurt Cobain. In both Public Enemy’s work, as well as his solo endeavors, Chuck D has showcased time and time again how his political awareness and love for rapping has made him an influential figure not only in the world of hip-hop but other genres, too. Following the release of Public Enemy’s 15th album, What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? — which also happens to be the group’s first release on Def Jam in 22 years — Chuck sat down with Okayplayer’s News & Culture Editor Elijah Watson, to break down five records he’s been listening to during the COVID-19 pandemic. Richard Pryor’s Greatest Hits by Richard Pryor, Funkadelic by Funkadelic, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend by Baby Huey, The Heat Is On by The Isley Brothers, and Alicia Crowe Live! Sings Tribute To Alberta Hunter by Alicia Crowe.
Kicking the discussion off with Richard Pryor, Chuck D spoke on the late comedian’s legacy and why he continues to be influential today.
“I think he was really the first comedian that said, ‘Listen, I’m not gonna worry about trying to collab with a certain appeal. I’m gonna let it come to me,” Chuck said. “And also, he was edgy and very political as he was funny and out of his damn mind.”
For Funkadelic, Chuck highlighted how the beginnings of George Clinton’s funk was also very psychedelic, as is evident in the song he chose to play from the group’s self-titled debut album, “I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing.” He also acknowledged Clinton’s appearance on “When the Grid Goes Down…,” the opening track from Public Enemy’s new album.
Following Funkadelic was Baby Huey, the late soul singer whose only solo album, The Baby Huey Story, was released posthumously following his death in October 1970. Chuck chose Huey’s rendition of “A Change Is Going to Come,” originally written by Sam Cooke, and also noted how each artist who ever covered the song died shortly after with Cooke, Otis Redding, and Huey dying a year or two after they recorded the track.
“All I’m doing is playing it. I’m not gonna sing it,” Chuck said jokingly.
After Baby Huey came The Isley Brothers, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Chuck chose “Fight The Power (Part 1 & 2)” to play from The Heat Is On. After all, it’s this track that inspired Public Enemy to make a “Fight The Power” of their own in 1989, which was inspired by Spike Lee asking Public Enemy to make a song for his film Do the Right Thing.
“The first ‘Fight The Power’ was this one,” Chuck said while showing his The Heat Is On vinyl. “The Isley Brothers gave us fantastic music.”
Rounding out his selection, Chuck chose Alicia Crowe’s Alicia Crowe Live! Sings Tribute To Alberta Hunter as his last record, which he released himself through his own record label, Spitslam. Crowe and Chuck have been longtime friends, with the two having attended college together. Crowe, who is also an attorney, dedicated the album to Alberta Hunter, who was an influential blues singer from the early ’20s to the late ’50s, before retiring and becoming a nurse Roosevelt Island’s Goldwater Memorial Hospital. (She ultimately made a comeback in music in the ’70s.) It was at this hospital where Crowe’s parents met, which is why she dedicated this album to Hunter.
Chuck isn’t much of a vinyl collector nowadays. But he’s obviously still a lover of vinyl, especially various the cover arts.
“I’m from the art field so I keep tons of books about cover art,” he said. “The artwork is what I really treasure.”