Chuck D and Public Enemy made news this week

By Tom Sinclair
Updated June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nearly a decade ago, Public Enemy were embroiled in a nasty controversy over the anti-Semitic lyrics of their song ”Welcome to the Terrordome,” as well as some famously noxious comments made by Professor Griff, the group’s ”minister of information.” Griff was briefly dismissed from PE, and leader Chuck D was forced to publicly apologize. Now the spectre of Jew baiting may be rearing its ugly head again with a track from PE’s new album, There’s a Poison Goin On….

”Swindlers Lust” indicts record moguls who have cheated black artists. While it contains no direct reference to any religious group, its title — an obvious pun on Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List — seems calculated to suggest that the song’s real villains are Jews.

In an effort to gauge its potential offensiveness, EW sent a copy of the song and its lyrics to Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman dubbed the new song ”very offensive,” saying ”Of course they’re talking about Jews.” He promised that the ADL would ”be sending a letter [of protest] to the record’s producers.”

Reached for comment, a furious Chuck D denied that ”Swindlers Lust” was directed at Jews: ”You have black swindlers, you have white swindlers, you have Jewish swindlers, you have everybody that has exploited artists over the years. It’s written and it’s documented. ‘Schindler’s List’ is two different words from ‘Swindlers Lust.’ If someone wants to attack me on analogies, they should read the lyrics first [instead of] trying to nail me on anti-Semitism for a twist of words and how I’m f—in’ thinkin’.” Those seeking to more fully understand Chuck’s thought processes may want to ponder the name of the rock band he and Griff are forming this summer: Confrontation Camp.