In the words of KRS-ONE, there's tons of people in hip hop music who think they're somebody, "a lotta suckas with colorful names." When you look at real legends, people who forged a way, blazed the charts and held a standard of integrity that would make a horny Congressman hide his face with shame, few names are as relevant as Chuck D.
Quotes from Article August 1st – Chuck D. of Public Enemy was born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Queens, New York, on this day in 1960. Chuck, whose parents were socially-conscious and political-minded as well as business entrepreneurs, ingrained the sort of afro-centric revolutionary thought that would become Chuck’s calling card and the soul of the man that many call the most important ideological figure in the history of hip-hop and rap music.
In 1968, Chuck and his family moved to Roosevelt , Long Island , New York where in the summer he would attend afro-centric summer camps. He would meet future P.E. Minister Of Information Professor Griff , born Richard Griffin at these camps.
Influenced musically by the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield and politically by names like Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Dr. Martin Luther King and Minister Louis Farrakhan, he took the vehicle of hip hop (which he first heard at a gym pick up basketball game before his high school graduation) literally around the world. His hip hop journey started out as a radio host on WBAU, conducting the first radio interview with Run-DMC and putting him in position to meet William Drayton, known more popularly to the world as Flavor Flav.
Chuck and Flav worked for his father’s furniture business, making truck deliveries and it was during these delivery treks that they began the nucleus of their rhyme writing together.
At the time there were not enough rap records on the market to fill out the entire broadcast of Spectrum City’s WBAU show, show Chuck took to writing and recording his own. A track called "Public Enemy No.1," influenced by a James Brown anti-drug song of the same name became a WBAU favorite and was soon played to Rick Rubin of Def Jam Records by future Yo! MTV Raps co-host Doctor Dre. Rubin enlisted former WBAU program-director Bill Stephney to convince Chuck to sign with Def Jam after Chuck had expressed that he felt that at age 26 it would be like stepping down to become an artist in the rap industry and after the experience with Vanguard that he had no desire for a record deal. Chuck was finally persuaded to sign with concession that Flav would be signed as a part of the group as well. Being a hype-man at the time, Flav’s role in hip-hop’s mainstream had not yet been fully defined. When Rubin asked Chuck what was it exactly that Flav did , Chuck replied “I don’t know, but it’s something.
Spectrum City was now known as Public Enemy and the group’s debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show was released in 1987. Hank and Keith as well as Eric “Vietnam” Sadler and Chuck using the alter ego Carl Ryder became knows as The Bomb Squad. Chuck added DJ Norman Rogers to the group and renamed him Terminator X. Professor Griff’s security team known as Unity Force which would provide security for hip-hop parties in the 80's including those of Spectrum City’s were added to the group and renamed Security Of The First World or S1Ws for short. Griff headed up the S1Ws and was appointed Minister Of Information.
The S1Ws would do onstage marching drills during performances echoing the drills of The Nation Of Islam’s F.O.I. training class. Chuck’s baritone vocals would be influenced by James Brown back-up singer Bobby Byrd and NBC sports-caster Marv Albert.
After a U.K. tour where P.E. started out as the opening act for already established RUSH management acts like LL Cool J and Eric B. And Rakim , P.E. became the headliners after the other established acts quit the tour and now writers and fans alike began to take notice of Chuck’s prowess as a writer and live emcee.
From then? It was officially all the way on — a string of classics with Public Enemy, a notable solo career and embracing technology as a prophet of rage and of tomorrow. Books, more radio shows, conference appearances, scoring films, doing voices for video games and of course touring six continents. His work refined the concept of strong iconography and the power of a live stage show, and his collaborations redefined what was sonically possible for hip hop music, inspiring and drawing collaborations from Sonic Youth, Living Colour, Ice Cube, Prince, Rage Against The Machine, Professor X., John Mellencamp, George Clinton, Henry Rollins , Dapper Dan, Anthrax, Isaac Hayes , Kool Moe Dee , Moby and Janet Jackson.
He's 51 years old today, and we all are better off after being touched — even indirectly — by his legacy. We thank him for taking one more trip around the sun with us.