Kings of the Mic Tour
FEATURING ICE CUBE, PUBLIC ENEMY AND DE LA SOUL
LL COOL J is an entertainment icon who has found great success crossing into multiple mediums. A two-time Grammy® Award winner, recording artist, talented actor, author, NAACP Image Award winner, entrepreneur and philanthropist, LL continues to display his wide range of talents with every project. He currently stars in the CBS hit primetime drama series, “NCIS: LOS ANGELES,” and continuing his musical expedition three decades after he first released music, LL is proudly prepping to release his latest project, Authentic.
ICE CUBE – As much as technology, business and society have changed since the 1980s, one thing has remained constant: Ice Cube has been a premier cultural watchdog, astutely commenting on, examining and detailing the breadth of the American experience in uncompromising terms with an unflinching honesty and a sobering perspective, as well as a deft comedic touch that has endeared him to several generations of fans. Indeed, growing up in crime and gang-infested South Central Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, Ice Cube learned how to navigate a world where the lines between right and wrong shifted constantly. Equally importantly, the Los Angeles-based entertainment mogul also found a lasting way to present the comedy that exists in the midst of difficult situations.
After penning the most memorable lyrics on N.W.A’s groundbreaking songs “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police,” Ice Cube left the group at the peak of its popularity because he was not being paid correctly. That move that led to one of the most successful careers in music history. As a solo recording artist, Ice Cube has sold more than 10 million albums while remaining one of rap’s most respected and influential artists. Ice Cube’s first two albums, 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and 1991’s Death Certificate, are widely considered two of the best rap albums ever released. Cube’s wry wit on such songs as “Once Upon The Time In The Projects” and “A Gangsta’s Fairytale” were masterfully juxtaposed against the searing social commentary on such selections as “I Wanna Kill Sam” and “Black Korea.”
Subsequent singles “It Was A Good Day,” “Check Yo Self,” “Wicked,” and “Bop Gun (One Nation)” solidified Ice Cube’s elite status as an adventurous performer who routinely shifted stylistic, thematic and sonic gears while remaining artistically sharp and at the top of the charts. It’s a trend that continued when the Californian started releasing albums on his own Lench Mob Records in 2006. His Laugh Now, Cry Later album spawned the hits “Why We Thugs,” and “Go To Church,” which featured Snoop Dogg and Lil Jon. Both songs were among the most popular rap songs of the year. Beyond music, Ice Cube has established himself as one of entertainment’s most reliable, successful and prolific figures. In the film arena, he’s an accomplished producer (Friday, Barbershop 2: Back In Business, Are We There Yet?), writer (Friday, The Players Club, The Janky Promoters) and director (The Players Club) who is best known for his acting.
One of the most bankable actors in cinematic history, his films include the acclaimed Friday, Barbershop and Are We There Yet? franchises, as well as star turns as a conflicted teen in Boyz N The Hood, a greedy soldier in Three Kings and an elite government agent in xXx: State Of The Union. Ice Cube’s ability to bring a natural, everyman aesthetic to any film genre makes his characters compelling and memorable, whether he’s playing a confrontational career college student (Higher Learning) or skeptical football coach (The Longshots).
As a television producer, he took the Barbershop and Are We There Yet? series to successful network runs and also enjoyed success with the controversial Black. White., among other programs.
In 2012, Ice Cube appears in the blockbuster film 21 Jump Street and the independent thriller Rampart. Other film projects in development include a biopic on N.W.A and another Friday film. In addition to his film projects, he will produce and star in the FX series Eye For An Eye, a gritty drama where he portrays a paramedic bent on vengeance. He’s also a pitchman for Coors Light and will be filming several additional commercials for the beverage in the coming months. “The relationship is really just starting to pick up momentum,” Ice Cube says of his work with Coors Light. “Not only is it a good beer, but it’s cool that they wanted to expand their brand a little bit and go after somebody like me, someone that’s a little different than the normal sports or rock demographic. I think they’re trying to reach all avenues. They’re trying to be where some of the other beers aren’t.”
Fortunately for Coors Light and his television and film partners, Ice Cube is virtually everywhere. He’s already completed an Australian tour in 2012 and will also hit the road domestically this summer, building to his forthcoming album, Everythang’s Corrupt (due January 2013), his eighteenth release as a solo artist or a member of a group (N.W.A, Da Lench Mob, Westside Connection).
On his new LP, Ice Cube highlights the evolution of the United States of America, a land where honesty, love and respect have been replaced by a meaningless, fruitless pursuit of material spoils.
“Everybody’s trying to come up with more than they really need and it’s driving people crazy,” he says of the mentality that inspired the piano-accented selection “One For The Money.” “If they can’t attain it, then they look for escape in another way, whether it’s drinking, drugs, dancing, having sex, whatever. Everybody’s trying to be somebody, which is cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you are somebody. You’re somebody before you’re trying to be somebody. I know a lot of famous dudes who aren’t good people. I know a lot of people that aren’t famous that are cool people, who set a good example and do the right thing.”
But doing the right thing seems much more difficult for people whose sole purpose in accumulating money and power. On the ominous “Everythang’s Corrupt,” Ice Cube explains how money is often the answer to questions about why things work the way they do. “You can never let the world puzzle you,” he explains. “All you’ve got to do is follow the money and you’ll see why things don’t get done or things get done. It’s a shame that the dollar has become more important and more precious than life itself to so many.”
So as much of popular rap focuses on trite topics, Ice Cube remains raw and uncompromising. It’s a stance he’s held since the mid-1980s when he broke through as a member of gangster rap pioneers N.W.A. On the funky, “Can I Hit Some Of That West Coast Shit?” Ice Cube dares the new generation of artists to push the genre forward, something he’s been doing throughout his entire career. “It’s basically saying, what you’re about to do, I’ve done it already,” he reveals. “It’s like, ‘C’mon, man.’ Come new. And if you’re new, you’ll stand out.”
To his point, Ice Cube has stood out throughout his remarkable career. His ability to adapt to new trends and styles and put his twist on them without losing his own identity puts him in an elite class of recording artists of any genre. With the bouncy “Sic Them Youngins On ‘Em,” he showcases an undulating delivery that counters his typically stoic, commanding flow.
That type of artistic alchemy also allows Ice Cube to craft a song like “The Big Show,” where he lets the world know that in the real world, he’s going to remain true to himself regardless of whom he’s interacting with. “I just be myself man, and you’ve just got to take it or leave it, whether you’re the homie in the hood or Obama,” he says. “You’ve just got to take me how I am. Where I come from, it makes me real equipped to deal with everybody.” As a multi-media juggernaut, Ice Cube has built a career that remains robust, if difficult to categorize. “It’s hard to define,” he says. “My brand, if I could put it in a nutshell, is I believe that I’m a solid artist. I always go back to that word solid. Solid like a Harley Davidson is solid. I hope people trust that when I put my name on something that it’s not just garbage. I’m not just throwing it at you. I’m trying to give you an experience.” And he’s excelled at that, time and time again.
PUBLIC ENEMY - In early 2012, Public Enemy kicked off their 25th anniversary by staging a free concert in downtown Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row. Just a few blocks away at the Grammy Museum, a special exhibit was being installed in their honor. No other group could possibly mark a career milestone quite like this. Every bit as compelling as their startling first single, “Public Enemy #1,” when it was released in 1987, Public Enemy have never stopped urging to fight the power as their artistry meets with unwavering critical acclaim and legions of worldwide fans. Fans that drove their single, “Harder Than You Think,” into the UK’s Top 5 last summer and prompted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct the group in 2013 – their first year of eligibility.
Delivering socio-political messages that give voice to those who have long been ignored, unafraid to question institutional injustices, and challenging both leaders and laymen alike to work for change, Public Enemy do so with an intensity, eloquence and depth that few can match. Co-founder Chuck D’s deep and resolute vocals implore and scold at once while Flavor Flav’s euphoric delivery delights a crowd like no other hypeman can, cleverly dispensing wisdom disguised in a good time. The combination is an unlikely explosion of entertainment that feeds your mind and soul.
Public Enemy concerts are electrifying, with Chuck and Flav and DJ Lord underpinned by a band that makes you forget that hip hop started with only two turntables and a microphone, drawing crowds in over 83 countries, during 2000 concerts, on 84 tours. Their call for empowerment and enlightenment resonates with people in every part of the world, at massive stateside festivals like Coachella, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Rock The Bells and in NYC’s Central Park, UK fests in Reading, Bestival, South West Four, the Open’er in the Netherlands, Pohodo in Slovakia, Calling Festival in Serbia, Festival 72810 in Mexico and countless more. They’ve toured Poland, Moscow, Brazil, New Zealand, crisscrossed Western and Eastern Europe multiple times, Argentina, Ghana and South Africa.
Audiences and artists worldwide are continually inspired by Public Enemy’s music and messages, but it was the sound of “Public Enemy #1” back in 1987 that bore an urgency so raw, so intense and so new that it exploded out of Long Island like a thunderbolt. The lyrics and delivery were startling enough, but the insistent beat and unconventional samples drew pause. It marked the origins of the groundbreaking production team the Bomb Squad, who would go on to create a cacophony of noise with Public Enemy that impossibly clashed together like a symphony.
Public Enemy’s first album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, quickly followed and was named the best album of the year by leading UK music magazine NME’s critic’s poll. Rolling Stone said it “heralded hip-hop’s great leap forward,” The New York Times noticed that the group “…set out to be the voice of a community,” UK’s Melody Maker likened it to “being struck by a meteor,” and NME said it “introduced us to the coolest vocal double act ever.” That year, Public Enemy joined the Beastie Boys on tour, launching a bond and mutual respect between the two groups that was never more evident than when Chuck inducted the B-Boys into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Their epic masterpiece It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (with it’s “Don’t Believe The Hype” and “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”) was released in 1988 and remains one of the most important records ever made. Spin magazine placed it at #2 on their list of “100 Greatest Albums (1985-2005), it was named Album of the Year by the Village Voice’s critics Pazz and Jop Poll, and The New York Times named it to their own list of “25 Most Significant Albums of the Last Century,” saying that “every great claim made for rap can be found in this album,” setting “a newer, prouder agenda for hip-hop” where rap was at its “most politically and musically dangerous.” The album sat in the Billboard 200 albums chart for 49 weeks.
1990’s Fear of a Black Planet found the group expanding their sound while remaining ever-vigilant about the world around them. The album debuted at #10 and went platinum. Their now-signature song “Fight The Power” was tapped by Spike Lee for his film, Do The Right Thing. Rolling Stone magazine called it “the ultimate antiestablishment rallying cry,” which still rings true to this day. The album also included the powerful Flavor Flav-led “911 Is a Joke” and “Welcome To The Terrordome” and was selected to be archived by the Library of Congress.
Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black stormed 1991 (hitting #4 on the album chart going platinum) with “Shut ‘Em Down,” the sonically complicated “Can’t Truss It,” and “By the Time I Get To Arizona,” an emotion-fueled demand that America confront its spurious take on race relations after the state’s governor refused to recognize the new Martin Luther King, Jr national holiday. The song “bubbled over with frustration, contempt and wit,” noted Spin magazine. While on tour with U2 in 1992, Public Enemy took the stage at Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix, played just that one song, then walked off.
A slew of concert DVDs (including The Enemy Strikes Live, a free concert filmed at the Apollo Theatre) and a Greatest Misses CD of several new songs alongside remixed classics followed. In 1994, Public Enemy reinvented their approach to recording and brought musicians into the studio to record Muse-Sick-N-Hour-Mess-Age instead of largely relying on samples. Called “ferocious soul” by Chuck D, the album remains one of the group’s greatest artistic and creative achievements. It debuted at #14 on the Billboard chart, with Vibe magazine describing it as “a tour de force of densely constructed music and verbiage. Snippets of Stax-Volt grooves, reggae, soul, and metal bop and weave over gut-punching bass lines and wicked drumming while front man Chuck D lets fly with…pronouncements, warnings, and accusations…” In 1998, Spike Lee sought out the group again, this time for his moving film He Got Game. The first time a hip-hop group had ever recorded an entire soundtrack for a film, Public Enemy delivered an almost wistful title track and met with another round of resounding reviews.
By 1999, Public Enemy had discovered a new vehicle that could drive their message directly to people around the globe. Digital music and the internet, still in their infancy, had caught the attention of Chuck D who saw their potential for massive change and the disruption of the status quo PE had long called for. That year, their album There’s a Poison Goin’ On was released on MP3 – only the second album available in the format. PE’s emergence as a leader in the rise of digital music and stance in the tumultuous Napster debate made Chuck D the de facto voice of another cause. He went from the covers of music magazines to the covers of tech mags while Time, USA Today and Forbes assigned tech writers to interview him instead of music journalists. Chuck and Public Enemy’s dedication to digital music has only strengthened since then. Chuck launched and operates www.SlamJamz.com, one of the first digital-only record labels, and recently started SPITdigital, an independent aggregator devoted to digital distribution.
Creatively, 1999 marked a major creative evolution for the group when DJ Lord took over the turntables after Terminator X retired. DJ Lord, whose tenure in PE has outlasted Terminator X’s by clocking in 13 years and counting, has been the subject of a documentary and hailed by Rolling Stone and is the musical backbone of the band. And what a band. For the past decade, the members of The baNNed have taken Public Enemy performances to dazzling world heights. The brainchild of Professor Griff, who was inspired by The Roots, The baNNed consists of guitarist Khari Wynn, drummer T. Bone Motta and legendary hip hop musician Davy DMX on bass. The baNNed is beyond just a backing band. Along with DJ Lord, they bring the energy and sonic perfection of a studio recording to life.
The growth of internet, digital music, and direct access to fans paved the way for 2002’s Revolverlution, a groundbreaking interactive album where fans from around the world were invited to remix PE songs and upload their work. Four were selected to appear on the album, along with several new tracks and live versions of the group’s most popular songs. In 2005, the group returned with their first full studio album since 1999, New Whirl Odor, which Mojo magazine named to their Top 10 Urban Albums of the year. Two more compilation albums followed, Power To The People and the Beats and Beats and Places as well as Rebirth of a Nation, a collaboration with MC Paris, who largely wrote and produced all the tracks with Chuck and Flav lending vocals. Public Enemy’s 10th album, How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? was released in 2007, their 20th anniversary. Pitchfork noted that PE “refuse to, and refuse to let their listeners, be complacent.” An authorized documentary on the group, Welcome To The Terrordome, screened to rave reviews at film festivals worldwide that year.
Always thinking different, Public Enemy spent much of 2012 recording and releasing not one, but two albums, Most of My Heroes STILL Don’t Appear on No Stamp in July and The Evil Empire of Everything, due in late October. “The album format is long gone as a market preference regardless of age,” Chuck D explained. “In my opinion, we have been in a predominately single song world since the first download,” noting that rap music in particular led the way when, “the emphasis had shifted from long recording to short and scattered” (in ringtones and mixtapes). The goal was to create “twin albums” that spoke to each other. RollingStone.com declared the first single, “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “…one of PE’s toughest, leanest, weirdest tracks in years, live drums and pure-funk guitar leaning into fuzzy synth wobble worthy of Skrillex or Throbbing Gristle…The Hard Rhymer would like you to get off his lawn and also pay attention. It is welcome.” Time magazine, by way of Consequence of Sound, said “Public Enemy deliver their signature style with an angst and tenacity typical of men half their age, combined with the wisdom of 25 years in the rap game.” Entertainment Weekly marveled that the album “is pretty darn great.” Anticipation for Evil’s release runs high, as the band continues to tour worldwide, recording, mixing and mastering during short breaks at home.
In a stunning turn of events, Public Enemy’s “Harder Than You Think” was used in the UK’s Channel Four “Meet The Superhumans” campaign for the 2012 London Paralympics, which aired throughout the games (http://youtu.be/kKTamH__xuQ). The powerful commercial, which played more like a short film, drew an incredible response from viewers and pundits, hailing it as one of the greatest ever created. The commercial and its use of the song helped drive “Harder Than You Think” up to #1 on the UK urban and indie singles chart and to #4 on the official national UK singles chart in September 2012, an incredibly rare feat by an act not on a major label. With over 3 million views on YouTube, the single is Public Enemy’s 10th Top 40 hit in England and its highest charting single ever.
Amidst new albums, the Skid Row performance, visits to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Museum, speaking at forums and participating in protests, Public Enemy played a concert in New York earlier this year. A New York Post writer caught the show. “…hip-hop will never know a group like them again,” he wrote in awe. Not likely, indeed.