Russell wasn't a fan
Doctor Dre — no, the other one — revealed that legendary hip-hop mogul Russel Simmons initially had the wrong idea about Public Enemy. The MTV VJ and Yo! MTV Raps host said that Simmons was so strongly against the sound of Public Enemy’s first demo that he chucked it out the window.
First, a little backstory on how Dre came to have the demo… As the touring DJ for the Beastie Boys, Dre got his hands on a lot of radio promos. He’d play the ones that he thought were decent for Beastie’s producer and guru Rick Rubin as well as Simmons.
In Dre’s own words:
“I was the first DJ for the Beastie Boys after Rick Rubin…I got my group signed to Def Jam and after I did that, while on the road, I used to play tapes we made on the bus with everybody. They eventually heard ‘Public Enemy #1’ because the song was a radio promo.”
To hear Dre tell it, Rubin was on-board with the harsh, political sound of the hip-hop legend’s from jump, but Simmons thought that there was no market for the upstart group.
“When I first played it, Russell [Simmons] was sleeping on Rick’s bed at NYU and Rick [Rubin] heard it and said, ‘Yo, this is a’ight. This is cool,’” he said. “But me being with the Beasties for so long, they kept telling Rick about it, so I played it for ’em. Russell got up, walked to the tape deck and threw the cassette out the window. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘This is garbage, man. Nobody’s ever going to listen to that.’”
Change of Heart
Dre claimed he was instrumental in changing Russel’s mind and the course of hip-hop history.
“Months later — Chuck, myself and [former Def Jam exec] Bill Stephney were in the same music class with Harry Allen — after going back and forth with everyone, I basically brought Public Enemy over there,” he shared.
We all know what happened next. Public Enemy signed to Def Jam and became the political yin to Gangsta Rap’s yang. Both served as “the black CNN” (in the immortal words of Chuck D), with Public Enemy reporting on the system’s that lead to poverty and mass incarceration while groups like N.W.A. shared its effects.
Since those heady days, things have changed for the members of P.E. After releasing several classic albums and parting ways for a bit , the group have gone down wildly disparate paths. Flavor Flav used his outsized personality to become a staple in early reality TV. Chuck D joined the world’s most famous cover band and now performs old Rage Against The Machine songs alongside some original material.
But the story about P.E. is far from the only one that Dre has to tell. Dre is working on a book about his time as a nexus point in rap music. The VJ says he has plenty of stories packed away about the personalities that shaped the genre in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“There’s a big story to tell,” he continued. “For example, when Ice Cube wanted to work with The Bomb Squad [Public Enemy’s production team], who did he come speak to about that? Me. Cube met me at Yo! MTV Raps and asked if I could reach Chuck D, so I spent the rest of the day tracking down everybody and got it together. Never got credit for it.”
Read the whole interview
Check out the whole interview over at HipHopDX. Tell us your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to SHARE this article.