Chuck D Blasts Recording Academy Over Deborah Dugan Suspension: ‘I Am Appalled’

Chuck D has thrown his support behind Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan in a sharply-worded statement blasting the organization following her suspension.

On Thursday, news broke that Dugan had been placed on administrative leave just over a week ahead of the 2020 Grammy Awards, due to what the Recording Academy Board of Trustees called “serious concerns” regarding her behavior. Those included a “formal allegation” by a “senior female member of the Recording Academy team.” Friday morning, Dugan hit back at the suspension through her attorney, stating that she would soon “expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy.”

Now, Chuck D — a founding member of the groundbreaking hip-hop group Public Enemy — has released a statement denouncing the Recording Academy’s decision to suspend Dugan, suggesting she was punished for attempting to bring change to the organization. “As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress and screw it up. Same old bullshit,” he wrote. “They want to keep it status quo and make sure things like Hip Hop stay the poster child of their fuckery.”

Though Public Enemy is slated to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in April, Chuck D’s statement goes on to cite his own combative history with the organization, including Public Enemy’s decision to boycott the 1989 Grammys over what he says was the Academy’s refusal “to acknowledge a new art form called Hip Hop/Rap.” When the group was approached about the lifetime achievement honor, he claims he had to “haggle” to include current Public Enemy member DJ Lord, who has been with the band since 1998 but was not present during its heyday.

“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,” he continued. “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?”

Throughout, the rapper is complimentary to Dugan, noting “it was obvious she was having her own struggles” with the academy when he spoke with her about the lifetime achievement honor. But he remains brazenly critical of the academy, concluding, “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 considers the masses simply as ‘them asses.’”

A representative for the Recording Academy did not immediately respond to Billboard’s request for comment.

Read the full statement below.

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 considers the masses simply as “them asses.”

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