You may have seen Chad Rapp's car. It's the gold '99 Chrysler Concorde postaged with a Public Enemy sticker alongside a "Jello Biafra for President" sticker. The stickers symbolize two sides of the same hardcore record -- with one side hip-agitprop-hop and the other punk-agitprop -- or the two halves of Rapp's brain.
This revolutionary, metal, movement-minded music has been the lingua franca for New Ken native Rapp and the many rebel outfits he came up with. Take an exchange he had recently at the Little Guido's pizza shop he manages in Mount Washington. It came when the Bubba Sparxx-ish Rapp was approached by some "big black dude with big braids and thuggish, gangsta tattoos on his neck."
"You the nigga with the Public Enemy sticker on your car?" Rapp says the guy said to him. "I'm like, 'Yeah, that'd be me.' He's like, 'That's crazy to see a Jello Biafra sticker and a Public Enemy sticker on your car, but I know where you're coming from.' I'm like, 'Word?'"
Turned out the guy was a poli-sci grad student at Virginia Tech, but seriously, what more could you learn about political science after gorging yourself on PE and Dead Kennedys?
As Rapp puts it, "If you listen to 'Louder Than a Bomb' more than three times, you should be legally allowed to do whatever the fuck you want."
Rapp got put on to PE in eighth grade, in Catholic school, during the Tipper Gore Crusades era. The album was Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Back. On his Walkman he gave his brain a good washin' all the way up to track 13, "Get the Fuck Outta Dodge," before passing out, only to reawaken to the hidden-track Pete Rock-remix of "Shut 'Em Down."
"That shit fucked me up for life," says Rapp mildly.
The first pieces of hip-hop vinyl he purchased four years later was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and their 12-inch "C.R.E.A.M" with "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing Ta F' Wit" -- a logical progression from PE. His first house vinyl was a white-label copy of Josh Wink's "Higher State of Consciousness."
It was somewhat of a departure from the strictly punk and indie rock he was stuck on, coming up in a part of the region where he says there were only "hoods and hillbillies," but mostly hillbillies. Still, everyone gravitated toward the same hardcore sound.
"It was about rebellion," says Rapp. "I don't care if you're black, white, green or yellow with orange polka dots, if you ain't got no money you're gonna click with people who ain't got no money -- you stick together and that's the way it is."
With all the poverty and drugs flowing through his stomping grounds, Rapp decided to escape and stomp elsewhere. He began spending all his spare time in Pittsburgh, putting his vinyl collection to use spinning at spots like Metropol and Zythos -- when he wasn't even old enough to vote. This apparently is a revelation to DJ Crown Boogie, who sits with Rapp on his back balcony drinking Pabst Blue Ribbons.
"Dude, I didn't know you were underage back then," says Crown Boogie.
"Neither did the bartender," Rapp responds.
It was deejays such as Crown Boogie and Hank D. back in the day who put Rapp on, before he went on to roll with crews like Radio Hip Hop and the 412 DNB crew. Cats like Midas, MPS, Dev, Alaska and even punk misfits including Nikki Bulletproof and Nathan Martin from Creations Crucifixion -- all have shared in the destruction of an apartment or two with Rapp. He now rocks with local rap unit Illegal 4Mation and does the Deli Company in Shadyside monthly. It's not something he does to live off of, and he seems to resent those who've turned the hip-hop hub element into a pure hustle.
Says Rapp, "Deejaying's a passion. I make pizzas -- that's what I do all day as a job but deejaying ain't ... it ain't no job. That's something you do because you love it."