Chuck D, Innovator and Activist
“Chuck D has long been a hero of mine as founder and leader of Public Enemy. He’s an outspoken social and political voice, and activist. Chuck’s lyrics always spoke truth to power.” Shepard Fairey
“Shepard says I’ve inspired him, but he’s inspired me. Artists need to connect and collaborate. Lift each other up, when we can. This isn’t our first print together. But it’s the first one we’ve done since the US is turning and folks are in the streets. The world is a different place now, but art is still important.”
– Chuck D
After receiving the invitation to participate in Chuck D’s art show, “The Terrordome,” Fairey decided to create his first portrait of the Public Enemy MC. Limited to 500, each dulled orange and blue “Fight The Power” print was signed by Shepard Fairey and Chuck D with all proceeds going to Black Lives Matter Greater NYC.
Born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in 1960 in Queens, New York, Chuck formed Public Enemy in the mid-1980s with the pioneering “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.” In 2013, Chuck D was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Public Enemy.
In 2019 the hip-hop icon, received the Woody Guthrie Prize, for his career-long dedication to shining light on social issues, specifically Black issues, through his music and writing. Past honorees include gospel singer Mavis Staples, “One Day at a Time” producer Norman Lear and folk singer Pete Seeger. “Woody was a fighter for the people, and Chuck D’s message has consistently aligned with Woody’s: choose a side, fight the power and work for a better world,” said Deana McCloud, director of the Woody Guthrie Center, referencing Public Enemy’s galvanizing 1989 song “Fight the Power,” which was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing.”
In 1997, Chuck D addressed negative stereotypes surrounding rap music in an essay book co-written with Yusuf Jah entitled “Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality.” In 2010, the prolific rapper released a track called “Tear Down That Wall” in direct opposition to racial profiling of border control.
Chuck D is also the narrator of the eight-episode Spotify podcast “Stay Free: The Story of The Clash.” He uses the parallels between Public Enemy and London punk rock band The Clash to discuss the band’s relevant politics and history.
Chuck acts as a spokesman for activist organizations Americans for the Arts Council, the National Alliance for African-American Athletes, Rock the Vote, and the National Urban League. He is on the board of the TransAfrica Forum, an organization focused on African, Caribbean and Latin American political issues.