This Day In Hip Hop and Rap History
This Day In Hip Hop and Rap History
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 Afrocentric 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.
Chuck and Professor Griff would share the same birthday in the same year.
Chuck was heavily influenced by the socially conscious musicians of the 1960’s and 1970’s like James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, War, Gil Scott-Heron, as well civil rights activists and Black leaders like Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Assata Shakur, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Later, in even in his own lyrics, Chuck would also express admiration for historical figures like Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner and Mary McCloud Bethune.
Professional athletes with a political bent like Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson also had a major impact on Chuck as his music in the future would contain an athletic type of energy.
Some of his lyrics would go on to shout-out pro athletes like Charles Barkley, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Chuck was first introduced to hip-hop culture at a gymnasium pick-up basketball game where a DJ was looping two copies of War’s “Galaxy”.
This would be an artistic marriage that Chuck would remain true to until this day.
After graduating from Roosevelt Senior High School, Chuck attended Adelphi University where he earned a degree in graphic art design.
It was at Adelphi’s community radio station WBAU where Chuck’s career would unfold, almost against his own will.
Chuck formed a group called Spectrum City.
Part rap group, parts sound system with DJ turned producer brothers Hank and Keith Boxley (who later renamed themselves Hank and Keith Shocklee) and musician Eric “Vietnam” Sadler.
Spectrum City released a 12 inch single in 1985 on Vanguard Records called “Check Out The Radio”, backed the B-side “Lies”.
After the deal went sour with Vanguard, Chuck had vowed to stay clear of the recording industry, opting instead to concentrate his efforts in promoting hip-hop through his broadcasting endeavors.
It was on Chuck’s Spectrum City show on WBAU where Run-DMC’s first interview was conducted.
Shortly after, Chuck met the most colorful personality of his life when an MC, one year Chuck’s senior, named William Drayton also known as Flavor Flav walked through the doors of WBAU wanting to politic musically.
Chuck and Flav worked for Chuck’s 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, so 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.
He also felt that after the experience with Vanguard that he had no desire for a record deal.
Chuck was finally persuaded to sign with the concession that Flavor 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 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 known 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 1980’s, including those of Spectrum City’s, were added to the group and renamed Security Of The First World or S1W’s for short.
Griff headed up the S1W’s and was appointed P.E.’s Minister Of Information.
The S1W’s 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 sportscaster 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 MC.
In 1988, P.E. released their sophomore album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” which became an instant classic and spawned classic hits and anthems like “Don’t Believe The Hype”, “Rebel Without A Pause”, “Bring The Noise” and “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”.
The Bomb Squad’s, wall of noise sound sampled everything from James Brown to Slayer records as well as speeches by N.O.I. Ministers such as Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Ava Muhammad and Dr. Khalid Muhammad.
Their style became the hip-hop “sound du jour” and the production team soon became one of the most sought after in the music industry.
They would go on to produce records for The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Vanessa Williams, 3rd Bass, Bell Biv Devoe, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J and Son Of Bazerk, just to name a mere few.
“Nation” was named the greatest hip-hop album of all time by The Source Magazine and hailed by critics and writers as one of the most important albums in rock history.
Chuck would now go back to the lab and begin putting together what he said he wanted to be the “What’s Goin’ On” of rap.
“Fear Of Black Planet” was the result when it was released in 1990 and it’s greatness surpassed even that of “Nation”.
“Fear” contained even bigger hits and classics like “Brothers Gonna Work It Out”, “911 Is A Joke”, “Burn Hollywood Burn”, featuring Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane, “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “Fight The Power”, featured in the previous year’s classic Spike Lee film “Do The Right Thing”.
Chuck and P.E. would go on to release four more classic albums for Def Jam including the score to the 1998 Spike Lee basketball drama “He Got Game”, starring Denzel Washington and current Miami Heat star Ray Allen.
Chuck started to become quite the business entrepreneur during this time.
In 1991 he launched his first clothing line Rapp Style catering to hip-hop fashion as well as his first record label S.O.U.L Records, an acronym for Sound Of Urban Listeners, with Hank and Keith Shocklee.
Over the years, Chuck would start two more labels both physical and digital imprints, Peeps Records, modeled after James Brown People label of the early 1970’s and Slam Jamz, which remains active today.
Chuck would also become the most sought after hip-hop MC for collaborations ever with the most diverse list of artists imaginable.
Chuck would appear on records by Sonic Youth, Living Colour, Ice Cube, Prince, Rage Against The Machine, Professor X, Meatloaf, John Mellencamp, George Clinton, Henry Rollins, Dapper Dan, Anthrax, Isaac Hayes, Kool Moe Dee, Moby, Janet Jackson and posthumous releases by Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, just to name a mere few.
Chuck and Public Enemy, during this time, also did world tours with U2 and Rage Against The Machine, showing the musical diversity of Chuck and Public Enemy.
Chuck would also relaunch his broadcasting career working with FOX Television, Air America and WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City as well as doing podcasts of his own on rapstation.com.
In 1999, Chuck became one of the front-runners of the internet and music distribution when P.E. released their first album after leaving Def Jam Records called “There’s A Poison Goin’ On” on Atomic Pop Records.
One could order the physical copy of the album for $10.00 or download it from Atomic Pop’s site or at www.publicenemy.com for $8.00.
One could also download the zip disc for $5.00 or order any individual track for $0.99.
Chuck would now join David Bowie, Todd Rundgren and Prince as established artists who had shun the traditional way of distributing music for the less red-tape mechanism of the internet.
Chuck would now become a cult figure of the new technology and even debated Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich on the subject on PBS’s “The Charlie Rose Show”.
Chuck has also published two books, 1998’s “Fight The Power – Rap Race And Reality” and 2007’s “Lyrics Of A Rap Revolutionary”, collaborating with Yusef Jah on both books with forewords by Spike Lee and KRS-One respectively.
Chuck has also written the foreword for the 2009 book “How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America” written by James Sullivan.
In the early 1990’s with the breakout of the Gulf War in Iraq, Minister Louis Farrakhan ordered all his ministers in the N.O.I. to temporarily halt speaking engagements.
Minister Conrad Muhammad of Harlem, New York’s famed Muhammad’s Mosque No.7 asked Chuck to fulfill certain speaking engagements for him that were scheduled before Minister Farrakhan’s new directives.
Chuck filled in for Minister Conrad and has become a favorite on the lecture circuit ever since.
Chuck prefers to call these lectures held mainly in universities and colleges “vibe sessions”.
Chuck has released two solo albums, 1997’s “The Autobiography Of Mistachuck” and 2010’s “Don’t Rhyme For The Sake Of Riddlin’’.
Chuck has also been a documentary favorite, appearing in film retrospectives on Muddy Waters, James Brown and Malcolm X.
Chuck has also released seven more albums with P.E. since 1999’s breakthrough “Poison”.
Chuck also founded rock/rap fusion band Confrontation Camp and was also a member of the artsy hip-hop fusion band Fine Arts Militia.
Chuck has released albums with both.
Aside from scoring music for Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”, “He Got Game” and “Bamboozled”, Chuck has scored music for other films such as “Bulworth”, “CB4”, “Due Date” and “Stomp The Yard”, to name a few.
Along with P.E. producer Gary “G” Wiz, Chuck composed the theme song to the Jessica Alba hit Sci-Fi series “Dark Angel”, performing it with MC Lyte.
He also appeared as an actor in the films “The Quiet Arrangement”, “Burn Hollywood Burn” as well as voicing for animated series such as “Johnny Bravo” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”.
Chuck has also done voice work for the video games, “Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas” and “NBA Ballers – Chosen One”.
Chuck has toured six continents with Public Enemy, in nearly 100 tours.
His quote that “Rap is the CNN for Black America” is almost quoted on a daily basis for writers in their summations of rap music.
In recent years, Chuck has returned to his graphic art roots from Adelphi and released artworks with social and political inspirations.
His lyrics in classics like “Fight The Power”, “Welcome To The Terrordome”, “Bring The Noise” and “Don’t Believe The Hype” are some of the most quoted in modern music history.
Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Janet Jackson have called him an inspiration.
Chuck D is the most respected and celebrated rapper of all time.