Chuck D - Biography



Rapper, producer, and political activist Chuck D. rose to prominence through his work in groundbreaking rap group Public Enemy. Born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, the Queens native was studying graphic design at Adelphi University when he started making flyers for hip-hop shows and DJing at the student radio station, WBAU. At WBAU, Ridenhour met future Public Enemy producers Hank Shocklee and Bill Stephney; through the latter's work at Def Jam, the then-named Chuckie D's demo track "Public Enemy No. 1" attracted the attention of Rick Rubin, who began courting Ridenhour to sign to his label.

 

After initial reluctance, the rapper now known as Chuck D assembled DJ Terminator X, Professor Griff, and Flavor Flav along with Shocklee and Stephney, and formed Public Enemy. The group's debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released via Def Jam in 1987. A year later came It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the single "Don't Believe the Hype." This album was even more revolutionary politically and musically than its predecessor, resulting in both critical and mass acclaim. Fear of a Black Planet followed in 1990, yielding the singles "911 Is a Joke" and "Fight the Power." That same year, Chuck D guested on Sonic Youth's "Kool Thing." He has collaborated with a diverse group of artists, such as Run-DMC, Janet Jackson, Ice Cube, Kool Moe Dee, George Clinton, Rage Against the Machine, John Mellencamp, Meat Loaf, Henry Rollins and Brother Ali.

 

In 1996, Chuck D released his solo debut, Autobiography of Mistachuck. In 2014, he released the long-awaited followup, digital album The Black in Man. In addition to his musical career, Chuck D has contributed to Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary series The Blues and co-written the book Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality along with Yusuf Jah and Spike Lee. He is active as a lecturer and political activist and for a time co-hosted Air America's morning show, Unfiltered, with Rachel Maddow and Lizz Winstead. Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

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