Chuck D: ‘Hip-hop is about being who you are’

The Public Enemy founder on the importance of rap’s history, losing his father and how the Trump era might play out

Rapper, author, producer and activist Chuck D was born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Queens, New York in 1960. As leader of the rap group Public Enemy, he helped to bring politically conscious hip-hop into the mainstream; Public Enemy’s albums, including It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) and Fear of a Black Planet (1990), stand as some of the most important hip-hop albums ever made. He has collaborated with many artists during his career, and is now a member of Prophets of Rage, with B-Real from Cypress Hill and former members of Rage Against the Machine. In 1999, Chuck D founded, a network of internet radio stations. One of its regular slots is “This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History”, compiled by Duke Eatmon and Ron Maskell, and this has become a book: Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History.

How did the book come about?
Well, there are a lot of urban myths about hip-hop and rap music. I’m about the facts, not the hype. In fact I wrote a song about that… It’s strange, but in this so-called information age, this so-called world genre of hip-hop needs a foundation of facts. People go to their phones, they go to Wikipedia or they go to social media. But they get a lot of opinion, as opposed to facts. Everyone has an opinion, but that leads to misinformation. This book was necessary for this particular genre of music. And you don’t make things happen by just wishing. You make things happen by doing them.

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