Carlton Douglas Ridenhour (born August 1, 1960), known professionally as Chuck D, is an American rapper,[2] best known as the leader and frontman of the hip hop group Public Enemy, which he co-founded in 1985 with Flavor Flav.[3] Chuck D is also a member of the rock supergroup Prophets of Rage. He has released several solo albums, most notably Autobiography of Mistachuck (1996).

Chuck D
Chuck D in 2000
Chuck D in 2000
Background information
Birth nameCarlton Douglas Ridenhour[1]
Also known asCarl Ryder, Mistachuck, Chucky D, Chuck Dangerous, The Hard Rhymer, The Rhyme Animal
Born (1960-08-01) August 1, 1960 (age 63)
Long Island, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Rapper, songwriter
Years active1984–present

His work with Public Enemy helped create politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s. The Source ranked him at No. 12 on its list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time.[4] Chuck D has been nominated for six Grammys throughout his career, and has received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as a member of Public Enemy.[5][6] He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 as a member of Public Enemy.[7]

Early life edit

Ridenhour was born on August 1, 1960, on Long Island, New York.[1] When he was a child, his mother played Motown and showtunes in the home and his father belonged to the Columbia Record Club.[8] He began writing lyrics after the New York City blackout of 1977.[9] He attended W. Tresper Clarke High School,[10][11] where he was offered no formal education in music.[12] He then went to Adelphi University on Long Island to study graphic design, where he met William Drayton (Flavor Flav). He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Adelphi in 1984 and later received an honorary doctorate from Adelphi in 2013.

While at Adelphi, Ridenhour co-hosted hip hop radio show the Super Spectrum Mix Hour as Chuck D on Saturday nights at Long Island rock radio station WLIR, designed flyers for local hip-hop events, and drew a cartoon called Tales of the Skind for Adelphi student newspaper The Delphian.[9]

Career edit

Chuck D in 1991

Ridenhour (using the nickname Chuck D) formed Public Enemy in 1985 with Flavor Flav.[3] Upon hearing Ridenhour's demo track "Public Enemy Number One", fledgling producer/upcoming music-mogul Rick Rubin insisted on signing him to his Def Jam Records.[13] Their major label releases were Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), the compilation album Greatest Misses (1992), and Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age (1994). They also released a full-length album soundtrack for the film He Got Game in 1998.

Ridenhour also contributed (as Chuck D) to several episodes of the documentary series The Blues. He has appeared as a featured artist on many other songs and albums, having collaborated with artists such as Janet Jackson, Kool Moe Dee, The Dope Poet Society, Run–D.M.C., Ice Cube, Boom Boom Satellites, Rage Against the Machine, Anthrax, John Mellencamp and many others. In 1990, he appeared on "Kool Thing", a song by the alternative rock band Sonic Youth, and along with Flavor Flav, he sang on George Clinton's song "Tweakin'", which appears on his 1989 album The Cinderella Theory. In 1993, he was the executive producer for Got 'Em Running Scared, an album by Ichiban Records group Chief Groovy Loo and the Chosen Tribe.[14]

Later career edit

In 1996, Ridenhour released Autobiography of Mistachuck on Mercury Records. Chuck D made a rare appearance at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, presenting the Video Vanguard Award to the Beastie Boys, commending their musicianship. In November 1998, he settled out of court with Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace's estate over the latter's sampling of his voice in the song "Ten Crack Commandments". The specific sampling is Ridenhour counting off the numbers one to nine on the track "Shut 'Em Down".[15] He later described the decision to sue as "stupid".[16]

In September 1999, he launched a multi-format "supersite" on the web site The site includes a TV and radio station with original programming, prominent hip hop DJs, celebrity interviews, free MP3 downloads (the first was contributed by rapper Coolio), downloadable ringtones by ToneThis, social commentary, current events, and regular features on turning rap careers into a viable living. Since 2000, he has been one of the most vocal supporters of peer-to-peer file sharing in the music industry.

He loaned his voice to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as DJ Forth Right MC for the radio station Playback FM. In 2000, he collaborated with Public Enemy's Gary G-Whiz and MC Lyte on the theme music to the television show Dark Angel. He appeared with Henry Rollins in a cover of Black Flag's "Rise Above" for the album Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three. In 2003, he was featured in the PBS documentary Godfathers and Sons in which he recorded a version of Muddy Waters' song "Mannish Boy" with Common, Electrik Mud Cats, and Kyle Jason.[17] He was also featured on Z-Trip's album Shifting Gears on a track called "Shock and Awe"; a 12-inch of the track was released featuring artwork by Shepard Fairey. In 2008 he contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky, and also turned up on The Go! Team's album Proof of Youth on the track "Flashlight Fight." He also fulfilled his childhood dreams of being a sports announcer by performing the play-by-play commentary in the video game NBA Ballers: Chosen One on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In 2009, Ridenhour wrote the foreword to the book The Love Ethic: The Reason Why You Can't Find and Keep Beautiful Black Love by Kamau and Akilah Butler. He also appeared on Brother Ali's album Us.[18]

In March 2011, Chuck D re-recorded vocals with The Dillinger Escape Plan for a cover of "Fight the Power".

External videos
  Interview with Chuck D at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, June 10, 2022, C-SPAN

Chuck D duetted with Rock singer Meat Loaf on his 2011 album Hell in a Handbasket on the song "Mad Mad World/The Good God Is a Woman and She Don't Like Ugly".

In 2016 Chuck D joined the band Prophets of Rage along with B-Real and former members of Rage Against the Machine.

In July 2019, Ridenhour sued Terrordome Music Publishing and Reach Music Publishing for $1 million for withholding royalties.[19]

In 2023, Chuck D released a four-part documentary on PBS entitled "Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World."[20]

Rapping technique and creative process edit

Chuck D in 2013

Chuck D is known for his powerful rapping. How to Rap says he "has a powerful, resonant voice that is often acclaimed as one of the most distinct and impressive in hip-hop".[21]: 248  Chuck says this was based on listening to Melle Mel and sportscasters such as Marv Albert.[21]: 248 

Chuck often comes up with a title for a song first.[21]: 31 [22] He writes on paper, though sometimes edits using a computer.[21]: 143  He prefers to not punch in[21]: 280  or overdub vocals.[21]: 282 

Chuck listed his favourite rap albums in Hip Hop Connection in March 2000:

  1. N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton
  2. Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded
  3. Run-DMC, Tougher Than Leather
  4. Big Daddy Kane, Looks Like a Job For...
  5. Stetsasonic, In Full Gear
  6. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
  7. Dr. Dre, The Chronic
  8. De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising
  9. Eric B. & Rakim, Follow the Leader
  10. Run-DMC, Raising Hell ("It was the first record that made me realise this was an album-oriented genre")[23]

Politics edit

Chuck D identifies as Black, as opposed to African or African-American. In a 1993 issue of DIRT Magazine covering a taping of In the Mix hosted by Alimi Ballard at the Apollo, Dan Field writes,

At one point, Chuck bristles a bit at the term "African-American." He thinks of himself as Black and sees nothing wrong with the term. Besides, he says, having been born in the United States and lived his whole life here, he doesn't consider himself African. Being in Public Enemy has given him the chance to travel around the world, an experience that really opened his eyes and his mind. He says visiting Africa and experiencing life on a continent where the majority of people are Black gave him a new perspective and helped him get in touch with his own history. He also credits a trip to the ancient Egyptian pyramids at Giza with helping him appreciate the relative smallness of man.[24]

Ridenhour is politically active; he co-hosted Unfiltered on Air America Radio, testified before the United States Congress in support of peer-to-peer MP3 sharing, and was involved in a 2004 rap political convention. He has continued to be an activist, publisher, lecturer, and producer.

Addressing the negative views associated with rap music, he co-wrote the essay book Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality with Yusuf Jah. He argues that "music and art and culture is escapism, and escapism sometimes is healthy for people to get away from reality", but sometimes the distinction is blurred and that's when "things could lead a young mind in a direction."[25] He also founded the record company Slam Jamz and acted as narrator in Kareem Adouard's short film Bling: Consequences and Repercussions, which examines the role of conflict diamonds in bling fashion. Despite Chuck D and Public Enemy's success, Chuck D claims that popularity or public approval was never a driving motivation behind their work. He is admittedly skeptical of celebrity status, revealing in a 1999 interview with BOMB Magazine that "The key for the record companies is to just keep making more and more stars, and make the ones who actually challenge our way of life irrelevant. The creation of celebrity has clouded the minds of most people in America, Europe and Asia. It gets people off the path they need to be on as individuals."[26]

In an interview with Le Monde, published January 29, 2008,[27] Chuck D stated that rap is devolving so much into a commercial enterprise, that the relationship between the rapper and the record label is that of slave to a master. He believes that nothing has changed for African-Americans since the debut of Public Enemy and, although he thinks that an Obama-Clinton alliance is great, he does not feel that the establishment will allow anything of substance to be accomplished. He stated that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is like any other European elite: he has profited through the murder, rape, and pillaging of those less fortunate and he refuses to allow equal opportunity for those men and women from Africa. In this article, he defended a comment made by Professor Griff in the past that he says was taken out of context by the media. The real statement was a critique of the Israeli government and its treatment of the Palestinian people. Chuck D stated that it is Public Enemy's belief that all human beings are equal.[27]

In an interview with the magazine N'Digo published in June 2008, he spoke of today's mainstream urban music seemingly relishing the addictive euphoria of materialism and sexism, perhaps being the primary cause of many people harboring resentment towards the genre and its future. However, he has expressed hope for its resurrection, saying "It's only going to be dead if it doesn't talk about the messages of life as much as the messages of death and non-movement", citing artists such as NYOil, M.I.A. and The Roots as socially conscious artists who push the envelope creatively. "A lot of cats are out there doing it, on the Web and all over. They're just not placing their career in the hands of some major corporation."[28]

In 2010, Chuck D released the track "Tear Down That Wall." He said "I talked about the wall not only just dividing the U.S. and Mexico but the states of California, New Mexico and Texas. But Arizona, it's like, come on. Now they're going to enforce a law that talks about basically racial profiling."[29]

He is on the board of the TransAfrica Forum, a Pan African organization that is focused on African, Caribbean and Latin American issues.

He has been an activist with projects of The Revcoms, such as Refuse Fascism and Stop Mass Incarceration Network.[30] Carl Dix interviewed Chuck D on The Revcoms' YouTube program The RNL – Revolution, Nothing Less! – Show.[31]

In 2022, he endorsed Conrad Tillard, formerly the Nation of Islam Minister known as Conrad Muhammad and subsequently a Baptist Minister, in his campaign for New York State Senate in District 25 (covering part of eastern and north-central Brooklyn).[32]

Personal life edit

Chuck D is a teetotaler.[33]

Chuck D has said on Twitter that he is the maternal great-grandson of architect George Washington Foster.[34][35][36]

As of June 2023, he has three children aged 34, 30, and 10. The two oldest by his first ex-wife Deborah McClendon and the youngest by his ex-wife Gaye Theresa Johnson.[12]

Chuck D lives in California and lost his home in the Thomas Fire that occurred from December 2017 to January 2018.[37]

TV appearances edit

Music appearances edit

  • In 1990, Chuck featured on Sonic Youth single Kool Thing.
  • In 1993, Chuck rapped on "New Agenda" from Janet Jackson's janet. "I loved his work, but I'd never met him," said Jackson. "I called Chuck up and told him how much I admired their work. When I hear Chuck, it's like I'm hearing someone teaching, talking to a whole bunch of people. And instead of just having the rap in the bridge, as usual, I wanted him to do stuff all the way through. I sent him a tape. He said he loved the song, but he was afraid he was going to mess it up. I said 'Are you kidding?'"[41]
  • In 1999, Chuck D appeared on Prince's hit "Undisputed" on the album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic.
  • In 2001, Chuck D appeared on the Japanese electronic duo Boom Boom Satellites track "Your Reality's a Fantasy but Your Fantasy Is Killing Me" on the album Umbra.
  • In 2001, Chuck D provided vocals for Public Domain's Rock Da Funky Beats.
  • In 2010, Chuck D made an appearance on the track "Transformação" (Portuguese for "Transformation") from Brazilian rapper MV Bill's album Causa E Efeito (meaning Cause and Effect).
  • In 2003 he was featured on the track "Access to the Excess" in Junkie XL's album Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin.
  • In 2011 Chuck D made an appearance on the track "Mad Mad World/The Good God Is a Woman and She Don't Like Ugly" from Meat Loaf's 2011 album Hell in a Handbasket.
  • In 2013, he has appeared in Mat Zo's single "Pyramid Scheme".
  • In 2013 he performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Music Masters concert tribute to The Rolling Stones.
  • In 2014 he performed with Jahi on "People Get Ready" and "Yo!" from the first album by Public Enemy spin-off project PE 2.0.
  • In 2016 he appeared in ASAP Ferg's album "Always Strive and Prosper" on the track "Beautiful People".
  • In 2017 he was featured on the track "America" on Logic's album "Everybody".[42]
  • In 2019, he appeared on "Story of Everything", a song on Threads, an album by Sheryl Crow. The track also features Andra Day and Gary Clark Jr.

Discography edit

with Public Enemy edit

Studio albums

with Confrontation Camp edit

Studio albums

with Prophets of Rage edit

Studio albums

Studio EPs

  • The Party's Over (2016)

Solo edit

Studio albums

Compilation albums

  • Action (DJ Matheos Worldwide International Remix) – Most*hifi (featuring Chuck D. and Huggy) (2010)[45]
  • Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin' (as Mistachuck) (2012)

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Chuck D biography". MTV Artists. Archived from the original on January 2, 2015.
  2. ^ D, Chuck; Jah, Yusuf (2007). Chuck D: Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary. Gardena, Calif.: Offda. ISBN 978-0-9749484-1-6.
  3. ^ a b "Public Enemy is 'moving forward without Flavor Flav' after Bernie Sanders rally dispute". USA Today. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  4. ^ "The Source: Top 50 Lyricists [Magazine Scans] – Genius". Genius. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "Chuck D – Grammys". Retrieved January 1, 2023.
  6. ^ "Isaac Hayes, Public Enemy To Receive Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards – Okayplayer". Retrieved January 1, 2023.
  7. ^ Bowenbank, Starr (February 3, 2022). "Every Rapper in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Billboard. Retrieved January 1, 2023.
  8. ^ Coelho, Saroja (April 29, 2022). "Hip-hop legend Chuck D shares the stories behind songs that 'shook the planet'". CBC. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Chang 2005, pp. 237–238.
  10. ^ D, Chuck (November 19, 2014). "40 years ago I entered this high school on LongIsland.I was taught to challenge society at WT Clarke with". @MrChuckD. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  11. ^ D, Chuck (March 31, 2013). "My Song of the Day Jackson Browne who I happened to meet up with 1996 at a Songwriters ceremony Peep THESE DAYS". Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Touré (December 3, 2019). "Public Enemy's Chuck D Talks About Hip-Hop Music". AARP. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  13. ^ "Hip-hop, you don't stop". the Guardian. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  14. ^ "Chief Groovy Loo And The Chosen Tribe". Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  15. ^ Reiss, Randy (November 17, 1998). "Public Enemy's Chuck D Settles B.I.G. Copyright Suit". MTV. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  16. ^ Arnold, Paul (March 9, 2012). "Chuck D Explains Why Suing The Notorious B.I.G. Was "Stupid" And Why Jay-Z And Kanye West's Bases Are "Corrupt To Rap"". HipHopDX. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  17. ^ Gallo, Phil (September 2, 2003). "Godfathers & Sons". Variety.
  18. ^ Williams, Kam (June 30, 2009). "The Love Ethic". Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  19. ^ "Chuck D Sues Publishing Company Reach Music for Withholding Royalties". August 8, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Chuck D on His New Hip Hop Documentary 'Fight the Power'". February 18, 2023. Retrieved February 24, 2023.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Edwards, Paul (December 2009). How to Rap. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781569763773.
  22. ^ Coleman, Brian (2007). Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House. p. 360. ISBN 978-0-8129-7775-2.
  23. ^ Fletcher, Mansel (March 2000). "100 Best Albums Ever". Hip Hop Connection: 21–42.
  24. ^ Field, Dan (1993). "New York, New York; Chuck D, Public Enemy's Mouthpiece". DIRT Magazine (Zine) – via Online Archive of California; University of California, Los Angeles Library Special Collections.
  25. ^ "Chuck D: The D is for Dangerous". Crave Online. August 6, 2007. Archived from the original on August 7, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  26. ^ Thorpe, David (Summer 1999). "Chuck D". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  27. ^ a b Mortaigne, Véronique (January 29, 2008). "Chuck D : let rap sans strass" [Chuck D: Rap Without Rhinestones]. Le Monde (in French). Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  28. ^ Muhammad, Cinque (June 26, 2008). "Hip-Hop Conspiracy? Critics charge conscious rap is silenced". N'Digo Online. Archived from the original on August 7, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  29. ^ "Chuck D Takes Aim at Arizona; Public Enemy In the Studio". Billboard. September 14, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  30. ^ "Chuck D takes the pledge for the Month of Resistance".
  31. ^ "CHUCK D on removing Trump, George Floyd, and the new Public Enemy video". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021.
  32. ^ Witt, Stephen (August 15, 2022). "Mayor Adams Endorses Tillard over DSAer Brisport in Bed-Stuy senate race". PoliticsNY.
  33. ^ Christgau, Robert; Tate, Greg. "Chuck D All Over the Map". Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics. Archived from the original on October 18, 2017. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  34. ^ Chuck D [@MrChuckD] (April 5, 2019). "My family claim to fame is my great grandfather George Washington Foster was the second licensed Black architect in New York and spit his design work on this building still here. #Flatiron #StriveForGreatness 👊🏿👊🏿👊🏿" (Tweet). Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via Twitter.
  35. ^ Chuck D [@MrChuckD] (March 13, 2022). "Of course George Washington Foster being my Moms grandfather 1st licensed Black architect in NJ , second Black licensed architect in NY ( worked on Flatiron Bldg) you also clear up long family rumor on Jefferson Davis. Yeah slavery was a MF – Wikipedia" (Tweet). Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via Twitter.
  36. ^ Chuck D [@MrChuckD] (July 30, 2022). "My great grandfather George Washington Foster designed quite a few buildings in nyc and a slew of buildings in New Jersey his state. Everytime I pass the @FlatironNY building I think of history" (Tweet). Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via Twitter.
  37. ^ Kenneally, Tim (January 10, 2018). "Chuck D Lost His Home in California Wildfire, Court Papers Say". TheWrap. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  38. ^ "A discussion of the music wars on the internet". Archived from the original on April 23, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  39. ^ "Newsnight debate on unity in America". January 21, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  40. ^ "Cover Your Ears".
  41. ^ Q, June 1993
  42. ^ "Stream Logic's New Album 'Everybody'". XXL. May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  43. ^ "RCS Music". Archived from the original on December 13, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  44. ^ "Chuck D Drops New Video and New Album". Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  45. ^ "Action (DJ Matheos Worldwide International Remix)". Retrieved December 2, 2013.
Other sources

Selected publications edit

  • Chuck D; Yusuf Jah (1997). Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality (1st ed.). Dell Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8624-1720-8.
  • Chuck D; Yusuf Jah (2006). Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary Volume One. Office Da Books. ISBN 978-0-9749-4841-6.
  • Chuck D; Duke Eatmon; Ron Maskell; Lorrie Boula; Jonathan Bernstein; Shepard Fairey (2017). Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History. Black Dog & Leventhal. ISBN 978-0-3164-3097-5.

External links edit