American rapper, author, and producer. Chuck D, (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) was born August 1, 1960. He got his big break after producer/music-mogul Rick Rubin heard Ridenhour’s demo track “Public Enemy Number One”, and signed him to his Def Jam Record label. The Hip hop/Rap group Public Enemy consisted of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, Khari Wynn, DJ Lord, and the S1W group and were Formed on Long Island, New York, in 1986. As a member of the rap group Public Enemy, he helped create politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s and they became known for their politically charged music and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community.
Among the best Public Enemy albums are 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), 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 PBS 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 executive produced Got ‘Em Running Scared, an album by Ichiban Records group Chief Groovy Loo and the Chosen Tribe. Public Enemy’s first four albums during the late 1980s and early 1990s were all certified either gold or platinum.
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, whilst 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”. He later described the decision to sue as “stupid.”
In September 1999, he launched a multi-format “supersite” on the web site Rapstation.com. A home for the vast global hip hop community, the site boasts a TV and radio station with original programming, many of hip hop’s most prominent DJs, celebrity interviews, free MP3 downloads (the first was contributed by multi-platinum 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. 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. In 2011, Chuck D re-recorded vocals with The Dillinger Escape Plan for a cover of “Fight the Power” and 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.
Public Enemy have been described as the most influential and radical band of their time and In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Public Enemy number 44 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, the highest ranking for a hip hop act The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007. The band were announced as inductees for the 2013 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on December 11, 2012, making them the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted. About.com ranked Chuck D at No. 9 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time, while The Source ranked him at No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time.