The legendary rapper tells the story behind the track that's been 25 years in the making
Groundbreaking hip-hop group Public Enemy have been releasing politically-charged music since their 1987 debut, Yo!, Bum Rush the Show. By the early ’90s, they had four highly successful albums, scored five Grammy nominations, and showed no signs of slowing down.
One of those albums, 1990’s Fear of a Black Planet, was meant to have a track that sampled the Rolling Stones’ tune “Honky Tonk Woman” but the group couldn’t get clearance for it. That changed this week with the group’s new album Man Plans, God Laughs, which features that track and was released Wednesday on Spotify. “It’s probably one of the best records we’ve ever done,” Chuck D tells EW. “But you didn’t hear it on Fear of a Black Planet because we had to wait and go through some things so we could clear it through the publishers.”
The rapper says the Stones were into the track when frontman Mick Jagger played it 15 years ago. “I remember in 1990, we were getting ready to tour France, and the Rolling Stones were playing somewhere before we actually came in, and a journalist told one of our tour managers that they actually gave the record to Mick Jagger, and he had listened to it and gave it a thumb’s up like, ‘This is some shit!'” he says. “Strangely enough, on this album [Man Plans, God Laughs] we got cleared to do a record based around the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman“—ours is called “Honky Tonk Rules.”
“Honky Tonk Rules” is just one of Man Plans‘ 11 tracks. The title track got a haunting video treatment this week, and the clip follows a young boy trying to get a grip on the violent world he inherited. The music video highlights Chuck D’s pointed lyrics, “Am I radical, am I pacifist? / Am I scared to fight? / I ain’t asking you / Am I grown? Do I stand up? / Am I owned?”—and ends with the boy as a man, holding his young daughter.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are currently on tour, a full list of dates can be found on their website.
Reporting by Kyle Anderson.