Harry Allen (journalist)
|Born||November 27, 1964
Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant), New York
|Subject||Public Enemy, hip hop|
Harry Allen is a hip hop activist and journalist ("The Media Assassin") affiliated with the group Public Enemy, and is the director of the Rhythm Cultural Institute. He grew up in Freeport, Long Island.
Harry Allen first met Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour in 1982, when the two took an animation class at Adelphi University in Garden City. Ridenhour, also a member of hip hop group Spectrum City, introduced Allen to a clique who congregated around university radio station WBAU/90.3 FM on Monday nights (although not all were students), and, in Allen's own words, "looked at hip-hop scientifically - as an analysis of its parts - and took it completely seriously, like I did." This included Flavor Flav and Terminator X (who, along with Chuck D, would form the core of Public Enemy), Spectrum City founders Hank and Keith Shocklee (who, along with Chuck D and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, would form PE's legendary production team, The Bomb Squad), future Def Jam President Bill Stephney, and Andre "Doctor Dre" Brown, best known for later co-hosting Yo! MTV Raps.
Although it would still be a number of years before Long Island produced its own stars, Allen was brought into direct contact with hip hop at a pivotal moment in its development. In 1983, WBAU/90.3 would be the first radio station to play Run-DMC's seminal classic "Sucker M.C.'s" and possibly the first to interview the Hollis, Queens trio that would go on to be hip hop's first platinum act. It was during this time that Allen would flirt with a career in photography, capturing the local scene and visiting New York City stars, as well as a change of scenery after transferring to Brooklyn College - until abruptly ending this hobby in 1986.
Allen's first published article was "one of the first pieces to illuminate the political ideology behind Public Enemy, whose militant demeanor and confrontational lyrics initially confused and baffled the mainstream white press." After a 1989 Washington Times interview with Professor Griff brought accusations of anti-Semitism against PE, "Allen was the natural choice to negotiate the love-hate relationship between PE and the press", and began identifying himself as a "hip hop activist and media assassin", becoming the group's publicist as "director of Enemy relations." He has also written on a variety of topics for The Village Voice, Essence, Spin and Vibe.
Making his first recorded appearance on Public Enemy's 1988 track "Don't Believe the Hype", Allen responds to Flavor Flav's question, "yo Harry, you're a writer, are we that type?" - "Don't believe the hype." He also made a visual appearance on Tour of a Black Planet video. Allen also 'performed' on the chorus of "More News At 11", from Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black, and 1994's Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age featured a skit entitled "Harry Allen's Interactive Super Highway Phone Call To Chuck D".
Allen was an early proponent of the Internet, creating an online presence for PE in 1991, publishing the webzine Rap Dot Com, and leading a panel discussion on music and the Internet during the New Music Seminar. He also founded the Rhythm Cultural Institute with KRS-One and others, which moderates and hosts seminars, and has undertaken research into the methodology necessary to create a fitting "Hip Hop Hall of Fame".
Currently living in Harlem, Allen hosts a Friday afternoon radio show on WBAI-NY/99.5 FM called Nonfiction and continues to work with Chuck D. On June 28, 2007, an exhibition of his photography, entitled Part of the Permanent Record: Photos From the Previous Century, opened at the Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery in Manhattan, a gallery that specialized in hip hop-related art, founded and owned by Bill Adler, former Def Jam director of media relations. The exhibition, which ran until August of that year, was re-mounted at the University of Iowa’s Black Box Theater from March 27 through June 27, 2010.
- Serwer, Jesse. "Before The Hype", Long Island Press, 7/11/2007
- D, Davey. "Hip Hop News", The FNV Newsletter 8/18/1999
- See press release, “Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hip-Hop Contexts featuring Harry Allen's ‘Part of the Permanent Record: Photos from the Previous Century’," http://uima.uiowa.edu/two-turntables-and-a-microphone/. See also, ‘Hip-Hop History” by Jason Brummond, Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 1, 2010.
- Part of the Permanent Record, includes samples of the exhibition
- "Jam Master Jay, 1965–2002" Allen reflects on the murder of Jason Mizell and the impact of Run-D.M.C.
- Media Assassin Allen's blog