Hip-hop scholarship

Pitchfork TV has produced an excellent new documentary on Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, complete with new interviews with Chuck D and the Bomb Squad (among others). The full documentary (presently available as a special presentation on the Pitchfork site) has three parts, and all are well worth watching, but I was most fascinated by the second (which unfortunately I cannot embed below, due to restrictions on the use of Flash video put in place by WordPress).

In the second part of the documentary, the members of Public Enemy discuss the expert knowledge and painstaking labor that went into crafting the music on It Takes a Nation, describing how their intimate familiarity with thousands of records gave them the ability to choose the perfect samples and sounds to use in order to achieve their musical and thematic objectives. Crate-digging on this level is not only an art, but also a kind of scholarship: it’s a matter of sifting through countless hours of material from the past, building on what came before in order to infuse new work with a greater depth of cultural meaning.


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