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e-Briefing | Celebrity Setup

To Musician, Some Tech Items Have a Good Rap

November 09, 2000

Chuck D co-founded one of the most influential and politically oriented of all rap groups, Public Enemy, in 1987. As the leader and best-known member of the group, he's expanded into several other fields--college lectures, TV appearances and his autobiography, "Fight the Power"--to get across his messages concerning race, inequality and media.

Recently, Chuck D has turned his attention to the Internet, founding the sites Rapstation (, which includes news and features about the hip-hop world, and BringTheNoise (, which presents live performances on the Web.

In contrast to many other music artists, he's an outspoken advocate of Napster, which allows Web users to easily download copyrighted music for free.

Chuck D, 40, has residences on Long Island and in Atlanta.

Desktop: We have PCs and Macs--maybe about seven or eight of them--in the studios and offices we use. But I hardly use them.

Laptop: A Mac G3, and that's what I use all the time. I live in two cities, have four studios--two on Long Island, one in Atlanta and another in Anaheim--so I move around a lot. My laptop might as well be attached to my navel.

I use a Mac because I'm a graphics person. It's what I was taking in college--Adelphi University--in 1985 before the band formed. By the time I got back to it in 1997, my skills were obsolete; everything was on the computer.

I kind of taught myself Photoshop and Illustrator, which are very complicated. I was tearing my hair out, but I loved it. Now I do [CD] covers and some graphics for the Web.

I think about upgrading to a G4 laptop, but I'm kind of stupidly attached to my G3. The only real advantages to the G4 is that I would get DVD. I don't watch many movies, but I would love to have the option.

Hand-held: None. I have my laptop, and I use that. I can't out-gadget myself. A Palm and the two-way pager is the lazy man's way of catching up with information.

Bookmarked Web sites: Macster [now called Napster for the Mac;]. I am the Macster man. Technology moves on; you have to move along with it or you will be a dinosaur. People who were thinking there would never be anything to replace the horse and buggy didn't see the horseless carriage coming, and it kicked them in the tail. Life goes on.

I believe passionately that music distribution should not be dominated by the usual suspects, that it's time for a changing of the guard. Right now, it's like five companies that control what gets out to millions of people.

Another site I like is Okayplayer [], which is a fantastic artistic site for music and information.

Last site visited: "Reel Top 40" []. It's clips from the superjocks of the past, radio DJs going back to the 1950s. There is such a wealth of artistry in the past, more music and better music behind us than in front of us.

I take pleasure and joy in hearing how they played the records in the past.

Screensaver: No. No fish tanks on my screen.

Cell phone: A Nokia. But I never cared for putting the phone to my head because of all the stuff they said about it might be dangerous. So I didn't use it until last year when they came out with the head mike and earphone. Now I'm quite a regular user.

Monthly minutes: I have the plan for 2,000 minutes a month and I go over it all the time, especially when I'm on tour or on the lecture circuit.

Favorite tech toy: An MP3 CD player from Canada. I can't remember the company that makes it, but it has compression, so I can put 200 songs on there. It's attached to my head like my laptop is attached to my navel.

The compressed sound is not bad. Mozart might have a beef, but for rock 'n' roll and rap it's just fine. With classical music, you have a lack of drums and you key into the notes more, so it might not be as good.

Sound system at home: Just adequate. I have four studios now, and I'm not of the age when I am trying to impress myself. It used to be I had to have a big car system, all the latest stuff.

Everyday technology uses: The key is that if you are mobile, like me, you can stay in touch all the time. You can do business. You create more quality time.


--As told to DAVID COLKER

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