Hip hop heavyweight turns stand-up beat poet

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Fine Arts Militia Feat. Chuck D – We Are Gathered Here

The Oliver Stone of rap, Chuck D has gradually softened his incendiary rhetoric and murderously complex conspiracy theories in recent Public Enemy work. But he uses this collaborative project, which foregrounds the rap veteran’s spoken-word sideline, to sharpen his lyrical and verbal dexterity once more. Over a sometimes pedestrian but always solid backing of funk, hard rock, jazz and even calypso, Chuck holds forth on subjects like September 11, the difference between rap and hip hop, and the need to educate yourself. Some of it is high-octane waffle, but much is also funny and humane. Wrapped in a warm, organic, boho coffee-bar feel akin to Michael Franti’s Spearhead project, Fine Arts Militia make party music with brains.