I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw “Public Enemy” canonized into modern-day dictionaries with “Chuck D” written right next to it. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Chuck decided to lend his sharp baritone verses for a solo project which he released exactly twenty years prior today.
The Autobiography of Mistachuck debuted on October 22nd, 1996 and according to many, sounded very much like, at that time, the latest installment to the Public Enemy album-reserve with exceptions to minor tweaks in volume, as well as a little more funk and R&B influence.
And straight into the first few songs during a one-time play-through, I could see why critics made such claim.
But then I started paying attention to the details, and the old saying “the god is in the details” rang true. Verses like “No sucker-tash, no ‘girl I got the cash reps/ No Sex traps, no Rolexes no unprotected sexes/ No false hopes, no hang ropes, boats, no car notes/ No killers, no vanilla, no Bigger Willies or Wilmas/ No jail time, no f—kin little kid rhymes/ No studio terrorists, no mirrors, look ma no spelling errors,” resonated such simple words and yet bearing eerie relevance to present-day Hip-hop even twenty years after the author first took up the pen—now I see why people see him as a sage-like figure in Hip-hop.
Immersing myself into each verse and phrase I visualized Chuck taking the form of an artist simply venting out his frustrations in an era that appeared messed-up through such raw and unfiltered storytelling. The alarmingly-titled “But Can You Kill the Nigger in You?” raised even more alarming content all of which ringing resonant to the song “Nighttrain” off of the album Apocalypse ’91 where Chuck advocated “every brother ain’t a brother.”
“’Quiet as it’s kept, some of y’all just slept on yourself/ Next time you hit the mirror black turn your back on yourself/ I wouldn’t trust some of y’all if you was my right hand man/ I cut it off at the wrists, like your name was Benedict/ Enough lead, to threaten fifty n—gaz dead, you said/ Cause n—gaz is back to perms and relaxers all up in their head/ TV n—gaz only make you laugh, embarrassed can you catch it?/ N—ga fever new season of modern day Steplin Fetchit’s,” leaving it all to the fearlessness only Chuck exhibits through this smooth-flowing, dark single, which also interestingly featured Isaac Hayes, who Chuck respected deeply, both as an artist and individual.
I imagine a whole new movement potentially born out of the latter song, sad to say many decided to sleep on such vehemence and passion contained in an obscure solo album. But to emphasize what the majority missed, allow me to quote Mr. Steve “Flash” Juon in his own take on said album, “No one artist in Hip-hop’s history may have ever been simultaneously more well-respected and misunderstood than Mistachuck… Chuck’s strong baritone and powerful words have made him a musical legend.”
I end my rambling by mentioning a similarly-misunderstood PE album, Greatest Misses, and leaving with the suggestion that the real misunderstanding lies within the fact that the ultimate “greatest miss” fell unto those who dismiss The Autobiography of Mistachuck.
By Jods Arboleda for PublicEnemy.com