The Education of Professor Griff

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Griff: "All that blacks know is that the Jews own everything, they're the bosses. Blacks know nothing about the history, and someone has to bridge that

Rogatinsky: "How?"
Griff: "I have the vehicle - the music."
Rogatinsky: "Would Louis Farrakhan do it?"

Griff: "I believe he would. I need to get you tape of him meeting with rabbis. I use the means I have, you use the means you have, and we can bridge this gap. Give me the facts."

Rogatinsky: "You would do this?"
Griff: "Yes."
Rogatinsky: "I hate to think that blacks and Jews would be fighting each other. Our people both were enslaved. I understand what your people are going through."

Griff: "It's one big mess. But we don't need to be fighting each other."
Then Griff brightened and said to Rogatinsky, "This is a rarity. I mean, you're actually opening up to

Apparently, at one point, the two realized that the trouble with life in America isn't so much the result of ethnic differences as it is the trickle-down of a corrupt system. As the conversation turned to American politics, Rogatinsky asked Griff why he hasn't addressed that subject through his music. Griff seemed a bit confused by the question. That is one of the most prominent subjects of his debut album. A surprised Rogatinsky had to admit that he hadn't yet listened to the whole record.

After being forced to leave Public Enemy, Professor Griff went on to record what some critics, including the highly regarded Dave Marsh, consider a masterful rap album, Pawns in the Game. Last year Griff recruited five solo rappers with "different styles, old and new, slow and fast." He dubbed them the Last Asiatic Disciples, and gave them stage names: Life, X, B-Wyze, Obie, and JXL. Though he lacked a recording contract, Griff began putting songs together at his Long Island studio, and in the fall, Griff signed a deal with Miami-based Skyywalker Records, now known as Luke Records, home of the notorious 2 Live Crew. Eighteen days later, Pawns in the Game was completed.

While it may be forever clouded by Griff's previous association with Public Enemy, the fact is Griff's album not only stands alone, but exposes Public Enemy's concurrent effort, Fear of a Black Planet, as a Pink-Floyd-meets-hip-hop jumble of nonsense. Where his former associates have lowered themselves to incorporating random sonic distractions, such as a seemingly interminable, self-referential montage of radio talk-show gibberish, Griff has crafted cutting songs that all but draw blood. If "Pass the Ammo" is a scathing and melodic statement about young people deprived of education because they're too poor to afford tutors or nice-neighborhood private schools, "Suzi Wants to Be a Rock Star" ups the ante on all of rap music. "Suzi," the LP's centerpiece, is not the the most compelling drug-related rap song ever put to wax - it's the single most evocative drug-related song in any genre. It's a rock song with rap verses, and it lights a dozen thematic fires under the raging drug-abuse inferno. America, sings Griff, is a drug-sucking whore; crack is the throbbing currency of destruction. And beyond the impassioned and painful truths exposed in "Suzi" is the sheer elegance of the song, its grand musical

On January 19 Skyywalker released a statement. "Since Griff will be doing interviews, videos, and a tour, we hope this shows how strongly we stand behind him as an artist. Any beliefs, political or religious, are solely those of Professor Griff and the Last Asiatic Disciples. We want it clearly understood that [they] are part of the Skyywalker family based on their potential as artists."

Griff says now that he had offers from other labels, but came to Miami and Luke Records because the move offered him the freedom of expression he wanted. It's not paradise, though. "I really, really disagree with a lot of [the label's] points," he says. "But they told me, `You do it as you see fit.'" Among the disagreements is the fact that Campbell's group, 2 Live Crew, sings humorously about sex and little else. Griff rarely mentions sex in his songs; each is a miniature political manifesto. (That should make for a startling contrast when the two groups begin a national tour together this week.)

There's also the matter of the Crew's banned album As Nasty as They Wanna Be. "My daughter [six-year-old Taqiyyah] asked me why she couldn't listen to it," Griff says. "So I had to explain it to her, that it's material made for adults. `Listen, you can't go from first grade straight to sixth grade.' That's the way I deal with it." In fact, raising the issue, Griff argues, can be beneficial if it leads to communication between parent and child. "It's better than if the kids learn it from movies or magazines or their peers."

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Greg Baker