Hip hop legend Chuck D’s collection of illustrated journals, Stewdio: The Naphic Grovel Artrilogy of Chuck D (Enemy, June), documents life in America from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to the early days of the Biden administration.

Public Enemy has never shied away from controversy, but these are vulnerable and honest accounts of troubled times. How do you feel about putting them out there?
You have to remember that Public Enemy is a group, and this is just me. I’m doing this for myself. And you have to do things for yourself. Know thyself and be who you are.

Does that mean we get the real Chuck D?
Oh, no one gets the real Chuck D. This is just a character, part of who I am. No one gets all of Chuck D.

How did you choose between creating portraits to represent important moments versus comic strips or multiple panels?
I call it “courtroom speed.” You know back in the day they would have the courtroom artists drawing really fast and then shoot it off. So when something would happen in the news, I would draw really fast—draw at courtroom speed—and then upload it really quick.

I don’t think I had a plan other than I wanted to represent a moment or a topic of discussion. Someone’s face, their portrait, can be a universally understood point of reference. Plus the eye is easily drawn to portraits. There’s a recognition factor with them. And my goal is not to get them 100% accurate either, kind of like Al Hirschfeld, the Line King.

You mention that back in the 1970s, you didn’t like Jean-Michel Basquiat’s expressionism. But now he’s an influence on the neo-expressionist art in Stewdio. How did expressionism become integral to your drawings?
To me, expressionism rages against the machine that powers those styles that are always striving for perfection. With the Keith Harings and Basquiats of the ’80s, I saw flaws in their art, and now I see the mistakes of the artist as the pulses and signatures of their work.

What is the significance of calling the trilogy “naphic grovels”?
They aren’t really graphic novels, so I’ve got to be contrary in my description. I’ve written many songs and, being a wordsmith, it behooves me to sometimes flip it.

Is there anyone you’ve read or have your eye on who’s doing exciting contemporary graphic work?
Check out [creative agency] mADurgency, which I created for artists and designers. And you should definitely look into Chino XL, D.M.C. from Run-DMC, Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, Schoolly D, and Murs.