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Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, better known by his stage name, Chuck D, was born in Roosevelt, Long Island, on August 1, 1960. His parents were both political activists, and he was a highly intelligent student, turning down an architecture scholarship to study graphic design at Long Island’s Adelphi University.
While in school, he put his talents to use making promotional flyers for hip hop events, and went on to co-host a hip hop mix show on the campus radio station with two future Public Enemy cohorts, Bill Stepheny and Hank Shocklee. Under the name Chuckie D, he rapped on Shocklee’s demo recording, “Public Enemy No. 1,” which caught the interest of Rick Rubin at Def Jam. The rest is history…The politically charged group whose criticism of the American media, frustrations and concerns of the African community and injustices throughout the world, is now know as one of the most influential rap groups in history. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Public Enemy number 44 on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and most recently, inducted into the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Outside of the group, Chuck D continues 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, along with Yusuf Jah. He argued 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.”
In an interview with Le Monde published January 29, 2008, 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.
In 2010, Chuck D released a track titled “Tear Down That Wall” a track bringing awareness to the issue of racial profiling plaguing America.
Recently Chuck D was asked to narrate a documentary about basketball great and hall of famer Julius Erving aka Dr J. It has been said that Chuck D was asked to take part in the project, not only for his powerful oratorical skills, but because he shares a geographical bond with the storied b-baller. In the song ‘Politics of the Sneaker Pimps’ Public Enemy draws attention to the sometimes parasitic and opportunistic relationships between corporations and young basketball phenoms. Both Erving and Douglas attended and graduated form Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School.
The documentary, entitled ‘The Doctor’, premiered on NBA TV, June 10th, between games two and three of the The Finals.
He is also on the board of the TransAfrica Forum a Pan African organization that works for the right of Africa, Carribbean and Latin American issues.
Aside from his inspirational/controversial lyrics, Chuck D. is also a talented artist who has created two pieces titled “By The Time I Got To Arizona (2011)” and “Beyond Trayvon (2012)”. Both of these pieces can be viewed and purchased through his website titled “the Art of Chuck D” at http://theartofchuckd.com/
The artistic collaborations of Chuck D and L.A. creativity house SceneFour began in 2010 with the creation of the visual art piece “By The Time I Got To Arizona.” The 60″ x 33″ canvas of which 300 total copies exist, served as a bold debut for the pairing, as it focused on Arizona’s ill-conceived stance on immigration and the proposed SB 1070 legislation. Created over the course of six months and released in 2011, the piece was a true visual “mash-up”, created from photography, found imagery, and sampling classic Americana art within a graphic art format.
Chuck D’s “Arizona” piece became a public mural in Chicago. Led by the artistic talents of Teel One, Rob, Tokeo, C3pO and Gamble, the message of the Arizona piece expanded to the general public on the side of a Church, and in total was 80ft x 25 in size. Equally impressive was the fact that this piece took the crew 2 days to complete.