AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISTACHUCK
Chuck D was always the driving force behind Public Enemy, so perhaps it should come to no great surprise that his solo debut, The Autobiography of Mistachuck, sounds like it is a Public Enemy album. However, there are subtle differences. The Autobiography of Mistachuck isn't as noisy as PE, and it has more overt soul, funk and R&B influences. Similarly, Chuck's lyrics have become more nuanced, which doesn't mean they're softer it just means that he has a richer template to draw from. While the album is a little too long and it contains a few weak patches, it's an excellent effort that follows through on the promise of Music for our Mess Age, while correcting its problems. Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Chuck D :: Autobiography of Mistachuck :: Mercury Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
If you don't know him, you can call him Mistachuck - but if you do you'll recognize right away that this is the solo album of Public Enemy's frontman. No one artist in hip-hop's history may have ever been silmutaneously more well-respected and misunderstood than Mistachuck; which is probably what prompted him to do this side project in 1996 and get some shit off his chest.
There's no denying that the shit hits the fan right away on the lead single "No" - a song overlooked by a lot of P.E. fans and hip-hop heads in general. It's hard to understand why when listening to this track - one that features an ill Hydraulic Funkahaulics instrumental background and some deceptively simple lyrics that indict everything that was wrong with hip-hop in '96; although the eerie thing about this song is a lot of it rings as true if not truer today:
"No sucker-tash, no 'girl I got the cash' raps
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 fuckin little kid rhymes
No studio terrorists, no mirrors, look ma no spelling errors"
In typical Chuck D fasion, he pulls no punches on any of his beefs with ignorant behavior or negative influences. "Talk Show Created the Fool" does an excellent job of condeming Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer, but the stinging chorus "laziness, is in the house, fat slobs with no jobs, is in the house" might make the point even better. Borrowing a page from Chris Rock (or perhaps Chris borrowed it from him) Chuck D writes "But Can You Kill the Nigger in You?" which allows him to vent his frustrations over fellow black men who can't get right and live right. This is a track which probably would have been controversial if the album ever achived wider exposure, but on it's own terms without the song title is no different from his larger catalogue of work, echoing songs like "Nighttrain" from "Apocalypse '91" where Chuck D made it clear that "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 niggaz dead, you said
Cause niggaz is back to perms and relaxers all up in their head
TV niggaz only make you laugh, embarassed can you catch it?
Nigga fever new season of modern day Stepin Fetchit's"
It's too bad Spike Lee couldn't make "Bamboozled" nearly this on point - maybe Chuck D should have written the screenplay. Chuck does have some straight up rhyme wrecking for the fun of it too though, as when his homies B-Wyze and Dow Jonz flex nice snap skills on the subtle funk of "Endonesia"; although the effect succeeds less well on "Paid" when he lets Melquan and Kendu bless the mic - although the scratched in Biggie sample helps give it more flavor. Mostly though Chuck sticks to pulling cards and criticizing what's wrong with the world - the things he does best. While you're still left analyzing the sly wordplay in the chorus of "Generation Wrekkked" ("If I can't change the people around me, I change the people around me") he even takes the opportunity to brag about it to all those "who didn't recognize how great and clever some of these rhymes be." The only inaccurate thing about that statement was the word "some" - Chuck's strong baritone and powerful words have made him a musical legend and lend credence to even the weakest of P.E. albums such as "Greatest Misses." The truly greatest miss though may have been the people who slept on Chuck D when he went solo.
Even when "Autobiography of Mistachuck" might have the tendency to go preachy or stale the Bomb Squad production of Gary G-Wiz and Eric 'Vietnam' Sadler keep things in perfect focus. Most stores have this album available for just a few dollars used; and the return on that small investment is great indeed. Even those who are not fans of Public Enemy per se but of good intelligent hip-hop in general which is paired with high quality beats can't afford to pass up this wrongly slept on album. Mistachuck got some things to say; the nation would be well-advised to listen.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: June 26, 2001
Autobiography Of Mistachuck (Chuck D.: 1996)
Chuck's first solo album is musically laid back, with a 70's soul vibe that's alternately mellow and funky (Isaac Hayes even appears on one track). Lyrically, though, it's as hard-edged as ever, taking on targets siginificant ("Free Big Willy") celestial ("Niggativity... Dare I Disturb The Universe?") and trivial ("Talk Show Created The Fool" - I don't think so). Plus a few tracks where he recites his career highlights ("Mistachuck," "Generation Wreckkked"). Just in case you haven't had enough, he tacks on an uncredited final track, accompanied only by organ, where he lists his grievances against the media, record companies, other black recording artists, and others. C'mon, Chuck, tell us what you really think. All the polemicizing gets tiresome, but the grooves are solid ("The Pride"), and he still has possibly the most captivating speaking voice in the business. Plus he turns over the mike to a few guest rappers, including Dow Jonez, who contributes the pop culture reference of the year on "Endonesia." Not a standout album, but another worthy chapter in Chuck's efforts to "reach the bourgeois and rock the boulevards." (DBW
Chuck d's debut solo album opens with an excerpt from the discussion that begins Spike Lee's movie Clockers a group of black kids arguing about whether Chuck D still matters as a rapper. After the excerpt fades, Chuck's voice comes into the foreground, noting what they have to say. Then he blasts in with "Mistachuck," a blistering claim to his accomplishments in the world of rap and a State of the Hip-hop Union address.
That segue sums up the perspective of Autobiography. On this album, the 36-year-old Chuck D speaks as a rap elder statesman, not so much embroiled in the music's ongoing controversies as commenting on them from a distance. He lectures the young gangstas of "Generation Wrekked," as one title puts it, from a similar remove, urging them like a benevolent uncle to set aside the blunts and the guns, to forget the East Coast/West Coast rivalries and study their history.
Though such messages don't make for much cultural heat, Chuck certainly has the shoulders to carry their moral weight. As the leader of Public Enemy, he was in the thick of the anti-Reagan charge in the '80s, articulating a vision from the urban battle zone that was both incendiary and inspiring. Chuck has lost none of his anger, but he sets his sights lower now, preoccupied as he is with preserving his reputation and combating a fictional character he calls Big Willie, a black record-industry executive desperate to cater to the white power structure. And in a surprising move, Chuck reunites with ex-Public Enemy member Professor Griff, whose anti-Semitic comments plunged PE into controversy in 1989, on "Horizontal Heroin," a Last Poets-style anti-drug riff.
Working here with producers Gary G Wiz and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, Chuck successfully reinvents the sound he defined with Public Enemy, slowing the beats down and introducing stylish R&B elements like sampled horn parts and vocal choruses. Seventies soul singer Isaac Hayes even steps up to the mike on the fearsome "But Can You Kill the Nigger in You?" And Chuck can still cram more meaning into a telegraphic phrase "Metaphors be passin' you like taxicabs," as he puts it in "Generation Wrekked" than any other rapper on the scene.
Chuck insists that Public Enemy will be back next year with an album called Afraid of the Dark? If that title reminds you of Fear of a Black Planet, that's part of the problem with Autobiography as well. A song like "Talk Show Created the Fool" is funny and sharp ("Ricki Lake is eating mad steaks off your bad breaks"), but Chuck already covered this ground in 1988 on "She Watch Channel Zero." It's time for this "incredible rhyme animal" to go on a fresh hunt. (RS 744)