Harry Allen (journalist)
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 Dré" 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 also wrote on a variety of topics for The Village Voice (between 2002 and 2008), 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 concluding question, "'Yo Harry, you're a writer, are we that type?' 'Don't believe the hype.' [Allen]." He also made a visual appearance on Tour of a Black Planet video, stating:
Well, what black people should do when they're seeking justice is ask for justice, accept what they've given, and then compensate for the difference. Black people usually don't compensate for the difference—they usually accept what's given. What we need to do is bust through the wall by any means necessary.
Allen also appears on the chorus of "More News At 11", from Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black, and 1994's Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age features a voicemail-message 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—with Chuck D and Adam Curry—during the 1994 New Music Seminar. Allen stated on his radio show: "anyone can be on the Internet, and now anyone is on the Internet." During this period, Allen also worked for Hank Shocklee's record label, Soul Records.
Allen also founded the Rhythm Cultural Institute in 1992, 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". In 1995, the mission of the Institute was: "capturing, keeping for the future, aggressively defining, and promoting the expansion of hip hop music and culture." In a 1995 Wired magazine interview, Allen spoke about hip hop in relation to technology:
That African Americans are alienated from technology is a myth. There is far more evidence showing quite the opposite. When useful technology is not kept from us by white people who practice racism, or when it is not used to oppress us, we usually find energetic ways to get a new maximum out of it. Additionally, I say that the power of hip hop lies in its ability to radically combine sounds, imagery, text, and other media within its form.
Allen hosts an "on-air magazine" on WBAI-NY/99.5 FM called Nonfiction, started in 2003, and he has interviewed guests such as Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth, physicists Brian Greene and Lisa Randall, and Black Panther Party activist Kathleen Cleaver.
Allen was employed by Rockstar Games from 2004 to 2006, in the public affairs department, and his personal website states: "He [Allen] considers his credit on the hit title Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas his proudest byline."
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.
As of September 2014, Allen serves as an advisor to the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC), at Indiana University, is represented by the APB Speakers International speakers bureau, and published the blog Media Assassin.
In October 2017, he visited honorary Professor Kajakawa at the University of Oregon and spoke to students about his life story.
- Serwer, Jesse. "Before The Hype", Long Island Press, 7/11/2007
- Harry Allen (29 February 2000). "Dreams of a Final Theory". The Village Voice. The Village Voice, LLC. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Harry Allen (8 October 2008). "LL Cool J Eats His Own Lunch, and a Few Other Things". The Village Voice. The Village Voice, LLC. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Carolyn Cooper (8 February 1995). Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the "Vulgar" Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. Duke University Press. pp. 144–. ISBN 0-8223-1595-5.
- Meghan Centers (31 March 2010). "Q&A with artist Harry Allen of Public Enemy". University of Iowa Museum of Art. University of Iowa Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Elizabeth Blair. "'Rapper's Delight'". NPR. NPR. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "Public Enemy - Don't believe the hype - with lyrics" (Video upload). pe4eva on YouTube. Google, Inc. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "Tour Of A Black Planet" (Video upload). Public Enemy. Public Enemy. 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "MORE NEWS AT 11". Public Enemy. Public Enemy. 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "20 Harry Allen's Interactive Super Highway Phone Call To Chuck D Public Enemy" (Video upload). randy janssen on YouTube. Google, Inc. 11 January 2014.
- "8:13 PM - 22 Jul 2011". Harry Allen on Twitter. Twitter. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Steve Gordon (12 November 2009). "Opportunities And Challenges For Artists In The New Music Business". MusicDish. MusicDish, LLC. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- SPIN Media LLC (October 1991). SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. pp. 41–. ISSN 0886-3032.
- D, Davey. "Hip Hop News", The FNV Newsletter 8/18/1999
- Matt Haber (November 1995). "Rap Dot Com". Wired. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "NONFICTION". WBAI Radio - NYC. WBAI-FM, Pacifica Radio in New York City. 2012–2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- "about harry allen". HarryAllen.info. Media Assassin. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- 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.