SANTA FE, N.M. — Chuck D is a busy man — but never too busy, he said, to help out a friend.
So between putting the finishing touches on two new albums while preparing for the first leg of a world tour, the legendary Public Enemy frontman has made time to bring his group to the City Different to play an invitation-only concert Saturday for the students of the Santa Fe University Art and Design.
“One of our legacy members, Brian Hardgroove, lives down in Santa Fe and he organized this event,” he said of Public Enemy’s former bassist. “So, to make a long story short, we’ll be in town to expound on what we do as artists and musicians.”
The concert caps off SFUAD’s Artists for Positive Social Change series, which examines a high-profile issue, artist or genre through events, lectures and performances. The theme for this past academic year was hip-hop music as a major cultural influence.
So, Hardgroove said, inviting Public Enemy to perform just made sense, considering the group is considered one of the most influential acts in hip-hop, as well as music in general.
“Having Public Enemy perform as a capstone to our event is important because of what they represent,” said Hardgroove, who was a member of the group from 2001 until last year. “Public Enemy isn’t the voice of the people, it’s the voice of the downtrodden — and that’s hip-hop.”
Hardgroove, a native of Hollis, Queens, in New York City, relocated to Santa Fe in 2006 and has called New Mexico his home ever since.
“It will be six years in the fall,” he said. “My father-in-law lives on the Tesuque (reservation). It was time for my daughter to start school, so we decided to move out of New York. There was a good private school there and that organization has a school here in Santa Fe. I really wanted to get her in touch with her Native roots.”
And now that he’s here, Hardgroove said his mission is promoting hip-hop culture throughout the state, whether it be through his engagements with SFUAD, or on his weekly radio show, which is broadcast on Blu 102.9. His work with New Mexico artists has earned him praise from former Gov. Bill Richardson, who declared in 2009 that May 8 is Hardgroove Day in the state. Last year he was honored by Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, who declared June 7 Hardgroove Day.
So what does Hardgroove do on Hardgroove Day?
“I call and remind my friends to take the day off,” he said, laughing.
He added: “I think what Gov. Richardson and Mayor Coss appreciated was my involvement with local artists. And this is what Saturday is all about, too. It’s about opening the minds and eyes of local musicians. It’s about letting them know that all the international and national scenes start locally.”
When asked if he would join his former band mates on stage Saturday, Hardgroove responded with a resounding “maybe.”
“That’s the big surprise,” said Hardgroove, who was replaced by legendary hip-hop artist Davey DMX. “Everybody is expecting me to, and I would enjoy it. I just don’t want to get on a plane with them afterwards and go to Australia.”
Public Enemy will begin the Australian leg of its world tour in early May, Chuck D said. The group’s album “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp” in slated to be released in June, and “The Evil Empire of Everything” in September.
The current lineup of Public Enemy includes Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, the S1W’s and DJ Lord. Students of SFUAD will open for Public Enemy under the moniker, ICC (Inter City Connection).
Chuck D added that Public Enemy will tour the U.S. later this year as part of the “Hip-Hop Gods” tour.
“It’ll take about 120 days to plan, but it’s going to be a classic hip-hop festival,” he said. “… It’ll be anyone from Naughty By Nature to EPMD. We plan to make each city an event — we want to make it like an NBA All-Star game or World Series.”