Public Enemy frontman Chuck D was not surprised by the latest development in the Breonna Taylor case.
On Wednesday, a Kentucky grand jury indicted one of three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed during a Louisville police raid in March. But the charges of wanton endangerment weren't directly tied to Taylor's death, nor were the other two officers charged, which sparked mass outrage and nationwide protests Wednesday night.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, praised Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's decision, saying, "I thought it was really brilliant."
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"You have to expect the expected," says Chuck, 60, who returned Friday with new Public Enemy album "What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?" The "Fight the Power" rapper supports the millions who protested the death of George Floyd this summer and stresses the importance of showing up to the polls in November.
"Vote this fool up out of office," he continues. "I'll break it down real simple: It's the side that you're on versus the side that hates you. When a side says you don't matter and your lives don't matter, that's spreading hatred. (People with) younger energy recognize that hypocrisy, and when it came down to Breonna Taylor, they expected the (grand jury's ruling)."
"What You Gonna Do" is Public Enemy's 15th studio album and their first on legendary rap label Def Jam in more than two decades. The 17-track effort is a celebration of camaraderie and longevity, as Chuck (real name: Carlton Ridenhour) and co-founder Flavor Flav welcome a variety of hip-hop and funk luminaries, including the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, George Clinton, Ice-T and Questlove.
But it's also urgently of this moment: On the explosive "State of the Union (STFU)," they rail against Trump and implore people to vote, calling the president "demented" and a "Nazi gestapo dictator." The album's title track weaves a cautionary tale, warning the younger generation to pick up a book and not solely rely on the internet for their communication and education.
"Nobody's going to peel the layers back and find all the answers that's going to take them through the next 10 years. The album's not there for that," Chuck says. "But it asks the question very immediately: 'What you gonna do when the grid goes down,' which tells you to beware of government tricks, beware of distractions and weapons of mass distraction. Just be aware."
The album also features a reworked version of "Fight the Power," Public Enemy's seminal protest anthem that was made for Spike Lee's 1989 film "Do the Right Thing," and included on the group's third album "Fear of a Black Planet" the following year. The star-studded 2020 remix features rappers including YG, Nas and Rapsody, with timely references to "Black Panther" and Taylor.
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Chuck credits Lee's movie, which confronts racial tensions and police brutality, for the track's staying power. He also hopes people will take the song's message to heart in the crucial coming weeks leading up to the presidential election.
"Am I nervous? Scared? Pessimistic? I can't afford to have those feelings," Chuck says. "There's no time for micro-differences: Group up and be a collective. Fighting the power means you can't fight any of this individually. You have to have something that you look at, and you fight that for peace and you fight that for justice."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Public Enemy's Chuck D talks timely new album, Breonna Taylor decision