It's illuminating to hear someone like Chuck D talk about our current political moment, but the real draw of "Hip Hop Raised Me" is the chance to hear stories from the old days, how Rick Rubin had to convince Public Enemy to sign to Def Jam records, how the sound of the classic albums developed.
Fans of old school hip hop should love how DJ Semtex steps back and lets a legend weave his story as he sees it. (I assume newer artists will also be represented in upcoming episodes.) The drawback to this is that the guest (Chuck D, at least) can jump from subject to subject on his own, almost like a stream of consciousness of their own history. DJ Semtex doesn't interject or guide the direction as often as a Terry Gross or Howard Stern. It's a style choice, and not necessarily a bad one, but one that listeners might chafe at if they expected a focused conversation.
Part of this may be due to the limitations of conducting an interview through Zoom instead of face-to-face. It makes me hopeful for the post-pandemic wave of interview podcasts where guests can join the hosts in person again!
Chuck D goes off on a bit of a tangent when asked about the future of hip hop and the pressure facing modern hip-hop artists, but he brings it back around to the need to have some sort of verifiable truth, to believe in something. He says he based "Don't Believe The Hype," a song that pushes back against negative and inflammatory press, on the work of Noam Chomsky. But, he cautions against dismissing everything out-of-hand, a caution about our current world. This kind of nihilism about truth, he believes, is what leads to fascism.
"You gotta believe something," Chuck D says. "Once you say 'I don't believe anything,' then you will take what sticks to you real quick if it appeals to you, which might be the furthest thing from the truth."