Chuck D, frontman of Public Enemy — who are receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys next week — posted a long statement on Instagram criticizing the Recording Academy over its sudden ousting of new president/CEO Deborah Dugan yesterday.
Dugan, who had been in the job only five months, was placed on administrative leave after a “formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team” who sources say was her predecessor Neil Portnow’s former assistant, although other sources say her strong push for change within the Academy was an equal if not greater motivation for the move.
“I salute Deborah Dugan for her truth and courage to try and effect change,” Chuck D wrote. “As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress,” he wrote (although Academy Board Chair Harvey Mason, who is filling Dugan’s role on an interim basis, is a black songwriter-producer).
“In 1989 we protested the Grammys because they refused to acknowledge a new art form called Hip-Hop/Rap,” he continued. “I responded with the lyric, ‘Who gives a f— about a goddamn Grammy’ [in the group’s 1988 song “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic”]. We fought to be recognized and for things to change. We kicked in that door for others to come through.
“After 35 years in this industry, folks should know that I always defer any individual accomplishment, always giving salutes to those before me and trying to open the door for those after me. In agreeing to accept the Lifetime Achievement Awards when Deborah called me was no different.” (Read the post in full below.)
In an interview with Variety last month, Dugan spoke of her pleasure at informing Public Enemy and the other Lifetime Achievement honorees of their induction (she asked that her comments remain off the record to avoid an appearance of grandstanding, but that seems irrelevant in light of recent events).
“Being involved in the Lifetime Achievement Awards, and deciding who should get it and why, and then having the privilege of telling them — seriously, I could just pinch myself,” she said. “Of telling them that ‘Not because you’re the most popular or sold however many records, but because your peers talked about your artistry in such a way that moved me to tears, I am calling to say, could you please join us at the Grammys and honor us by accepting this Lifetime Achievement Award?
“Public Enemy were like ‘Wait a minute!,’” she continued. “We were the people that said ‘f— you’ to the Grammys — why are you calling me?’ And I said, ‘Because you saying f— you to the Grammys resulted in [a Grammy] category we now call rap,’ and they burst out laughing.”
The Grammy Awards take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 26.
View this post on Instagram
My open letter To The Grammy’s and Hip hop ✊🏾 ………… Figures… I salute Deborah Dugan for her truth and courage to try and effect change. As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress and screw it up. Same old bullshit. They want to keep it status quo and make sure things like Hip Hop stay the poster child of their fuckery. In 1989 we protested the Grammys because they refused to acknowledge a new art form called Hip Hop/Rap. I responded with the lyric, “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy.” We fought to be recognized and for things to change. We kicked that door in for others to come through. After 35 years in this industry, folks should know that I always defer any individual accomplishment, always giving salutes to those before me and trying to open the door for those after me. In agreeing to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award when Deborah called me was no different. We discussed these issues and what needed to change. Hip Hop can’t be judged by a bunch of old corporate guards who rewrite history to serve their corporate bottom line. But it was obvious she was having her own struggles with an academy that thinks Public Enemy ended in 1992 yet want to give us a lifetime achievement award without acknowledging a lifetime of work. We had to haggle, to educate, to justify why a core member of our group for the past 22 years, DJ Lord, should be part of this award. We had to question why our biggest UK hit and the theme to the global Paralympics Games, “Harder Than You Think,” was left out. Maybe because it was released on my own independent label, SlamJamz, and not a major? Never could I have imagined that pushing for the recognition our art form deserved would turn into artists being coerced into disrespecting the craft, themselves, the culture and other people only to chase the bag and validation from corporations and award shows who don’t care about you. I hope this letter will be a wake-up call for them. New folks but the same ol bullshit pattern doesn’t change a thing. So I’m not surprised that Deborah Dugan is out. I am appalled because it reeks of the same old jive, a New Whirl Odor that ..