Public Enemy will take the next step into the digital music age by posting re-recorded versions of songs, such as “Public Enemy #1,” “Arizona” and “Shut ‘Em Down” on rapper Chuck D.’s new Web site/record label SlamJamz.com and asking fans to write new music for the tracks. A longtime, outspoken proponent of online platforms and technology such as Napster and MP3s, Chuck D. says the technology developed in recent years has made it possible for artists to work in new ways.
“I think we’re living in interactive times, and technology has made it more accessible to create more creators,” he says. “It’s not as difficult to make a record as it was maybe fifteen years ago, when you had to record in a professional studio. Now there’s a thin line between the listener and the creator, and we’re trying erase that line. We like to look at the public not solely as consumers, but also as participants, possibly even as future partners.”
Public Enemy will post one song a week beginning immediately and encourage potential songwriters to pursue all styles of music – from electronica to bluegrass to jazz to metal. Potential songwriters will be instructed to record new versions of the song, download the vocals from SlamJamz onto the track and upload the completed piece of music onto the SlamJamz site. Public Enemy will listen to the submitted versions of the songs, and the ones picked will make it onto a new P.E. album scheduled for release later this year. Songwriters who have their tracks selected will retain co-ownership rights of the songs and earn royalties on the sale of each copy.
Chuck D. says releasing the new Public Enemy album in this way reflects his philosophy for running his online label: “I think online situations have to be super niche-oriented and micro-focused. We need to choose what we deliver carefully and what we should release online, offline and/or both.
“SlamJamz.com releases will be online first, with offline distribution being secondary,” he continues. “Online distribution allows us to be far more flexible than offline. The beauty of a company like SlamJamz is that it will serve as an MP3 singles label in much the same way as the record labels of the Sixties, when songs could be cut and released in days.”
Not surprisingly, the new material he’s writing takes advantage of the new platform by centering around what’s happening in the here and now. “I’m writing things that are very current and very reflective of the moment,” he says, “which is impossible to do within the slow major label system. With the MP3 format, I am able to write about something that happened yesterday and give it to the public tomorrow.”
Although the primary emphasis of SlamJamz will be online music, Chuck D. said the new Public Enemy record and some future releases will be available in traditional outlets. “We’re planning to distribute only ten to fifteen percent of SlamJamz releases traditionally, but we will do whatever is best for the specific project. We wouldn’t be opposed to using 100 different distribution companies.”
In other P.E. news, the group plans to release a live DVD of an October 19, 1999 show at the House of Blues in Hollywood on September 11th.