Chuck D

Chuck D Headshot

Rapper • Singer • Songwriter • Activist

Birth Name: Carlton Douglas Ridenhour

Birth Date: August 1, 1960

Age: 63 years old

Birth Place: Roosevelt, New York

Bands: Public Enemy

The frontman and prime mover of Public Enemy, Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour) was a key figure in the development of hip-hop, one of the movement's first social and political spokesmen. Both he and William Drayton (alias his Public Enemy partner Flavor Flav) were students at Adelphi University on Long Island; Chuck earned a BFA in graphic design.

He also hosted one of the first regular hip-hop shows at independent radio station WLIR, and later moved into community station WBAU. To promote the latter show, he and Flav cut a single, "Check Out the Radio," under the name of Chuck D and Spectrum City. The sound of the record, with the rap underlined by heavy funk riffing, anticipated fusions to come. Public Enemy made its above-ground debut as the opening act on the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill tour, where PEs stage image (they were flanked by Uzi-carrying bodyguards) was a notable contrast to the young Beasties' party vibe.

Their first album Yo! Bum Rush the Show was released after the tour, and proved influential for its gritty imagery and dense, sample-driven production. However the real breakthrough was 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back which produced two anthems in "Bring the Noise" and "Don't Believe the Hype," and whose conscious lyrics and dense soundscapes made it one of the most-praised and biggest-selling albums in rap to that point. The classic run continued with the non-LP single "Fight the Power" (from Spike Lee's film "Do the Right Thing" (1989), 1990's Fear of a Black Planet.

Though there was a brief flap when some of Chuck's lyrics on the single "Welcome to the Terrordome" were interpreted as anti-Semitic, the album was arguably the last time that Public Enemy truly captured the zeitgeist. While the crew's place in rap history was now secure, Public Enemy's later career would be a mix of triumphant moments (like the '91 single "Can't Truss It," which addressed the legacy of slavery; and the 1998 Spike Lee soundtrack "He Got Game") along with albums, like 1999's Revolverlution, which were considered a letdown from the peak era.

But Chuck D would remain a respected figure as he did more work outside the group-- collaborating with musicians as diverse as Sonic Youth (on their single "Kool Thing"), Rage Against the Machine, George Clinton and probably most surprisingly, Meat Loaf. His own solo debut, 1996's Autobiography of Mistachuck, wasn't lyrically far from the Public Enemy template but the music was more steeped in classic R&B. Under the name Confrontation Camp, he also made an album (2000's Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear) with Kyle Jason-- who like Chuck hosted a show on the progressive political Air America channel. (Chuck's show, Unfiltered, was co-hosted by a pre-TV Rachel Maddow). He was a commentator in numerous rap documentaries, reported on Barack Obama's inauguration for the BBC, and even played a comic role in Judd Apatow's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004). Public Enemy's 14th album, Nothing is Quick in the Desert, was released as a free download in 2017.

Credits

CamdenStream

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2024

James Brown: Say It LoudStream

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2024

The Huey Show presents The Hip Hop Mixtape

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2022

Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World

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2022

Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World

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2022

Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World

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2022

Nothing ComparesStream

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2022
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Use of Force: The Policing of Black AmericaStream

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2021

Oscar Micheaux: Il supereroe del cinema americano

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2021

D.L. Hughley: Uncut

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2020

Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert

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2020

Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America

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2019

Grass Is Greener

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2019

The Super Bowl That Wasn't

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2019

Sheryl Crow Feat. Chuck D, Andra Day & Gary Clark Jr.: Story of Everything

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2019

The Untold Story of Detroit Hip Hop

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2018

Survivors Guide to Prison

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2018

The Game: From the Street to Wall Street

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2017

Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America

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2017

Promised Land

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2017

The Great Songwriters

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2016

Forever Brothers: The '71 Pirates Story

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2016

Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story

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2016

Zeke Thomas feat. Chuck D & Jasiri X: Blackness (Director's Cut)

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2015

The Daily Show with Trevor NoahStream

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2015

The Late Show With Stephen ColbertStream

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2015

MLB Network Presents

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2015

All Things Must Pass

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2015

Hustlers Convention

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2015

Hustlers Convention

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2015

Mavis!

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2015

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

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2014

Heights Girl

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2014

Blues America

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2013

The Arsenio Hall Show

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2013

The Doctor

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2013

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards

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2013

Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome

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2012

FunkJazz Kafe: Diary of a Decade (The Story of a Movement)

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2012

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

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2012

Public Enemy: Prophets of Rage

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2011

Black Music Legends of the 1980s

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2011

My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop

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2010

On the Shoulders of Giants

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2010

On the Shoulders of Giants

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2010

30 for 30Stream

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2009

The Quiet Arrangement

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Captain Ambercrombie
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2009

The Laura Flanders Show

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2008

N.A.S.A. feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge & Z-Trip: Money

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2008

Big Pun: The Legacy

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2008

City Teacher

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2006

Iconoclasts

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2005

Tavis Smiley

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2004

Anchorman: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy -- The Lost Movie

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Malcolm Y
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2004

Afrocentricity

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2000

Classic AlbumsStream

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1997

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn

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Leon Brothers
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1997

NewsRadioStream

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1995
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Space Ghost Coast to CoastStream

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1994

Yo! MTV RapsStream

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1988

Cyndi Lauper Feat. Chuck D.: What's Going On

Music Performer
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1986

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