Twenty years ago, Chuck D penned the prescient “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” a searing tangent aimed at the state legislators who refused to vote for a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
With the passage of April’s anti-immigration laws, the state once again became a center of attention for racial tensions and political debate. In response, the always-outspoken Public Enemy frontman has collaborated on an art piece with Ravi Dosaj, the man who just last year successfully recast the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA as George Washington.
The result of their union, a limited-edition series restricted to just 300 canvasses, finds D standing in front of a blood-red backdrop, packing with different types of people standing glumly behind bars. According to the artists themselves, the concept details “a future Arizona border created in a sophisticated collage utilizing a cache of recognizable figures (created over the last 100 years) to show how our ‘nation of immigrants’ has been lost to legislation.”
To promote the art piece and (as always) to impart knowledge, Chuck D spoke to Pop & Hiss about his latest venture.
What made you decide to get involved with doing an art piece based on “By the Time I Get to Arizona?”
It was a mutual decision. I was familiar with [Dosaj] from his RZA portrait and his work with Bootsy Collins. Plus I come from a visual art background. I graduated with an art degree from Adelphi in 1984, and I’ve been influential in various art departments since the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve always believed that art and culture are intertwined with the human race and wholly diametrically opposed from government, who categorize you based on how old you are and how you look.