New York native Chuck D is a spearhead of the East Coast hip-hop movement and has been chronicling the growth and evolution of the music for decades. The Public Enemy frontman (real name Carl Ridenhour), who published his graffiti-style graphic novel Summer of Hamn earlier this year, has been at the forefront of the culture for years and is a symbol of the 1980s.
The 1980s was a pivotal decade for hip-hop. During its first full decade of existence, the decade saw an abundance of innovation and experimentation, which helped the genre grow and evolve into what we know it today.
With groups such as Public Enemy and NWA making the genre more rowdy, gripping and dynamic, the 1980s saw a sharp increase in the popularity of hip-hop. For the first time, rap music began entering the charts, and it even saw hip-hop music video broadcast on MTV in 1984.
Although hip-hop was primarily African-American, its audience expanded during the 1980s, and one man was integral in this. After being taught hip-hop production by DJ Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation, the co-founder of Def Jam, Rick Rubin, with his love of rock music and rap, began fusing the two.
This music ended up in the hands of Run-DMC, who then exploded. Compromised of Jam Master Jay, Rev. Run and DMC, the trio formed in 1983 in the Hollis neighbourhood of Queens, New York, shook up the scene in the mid-80s and dominated the charts with their rock-rap music.
Chuck D was a fan of the collective, and in an interview with Uncut magazine, the lyricist revealed his favourite Run-DMC tracks. Opening up about his most cherished tracks, Ridenhour stated, “We can talk about anything by Run-DMC: ‘My Adidas’, ‘Peter Piper’ ‘Rock Box’, ‘Sucker MC’s’… but if I had to choose one to be the most influential, it’s ‘Rock Box’. It showed that hip-hop and rock could really work. Run-DMC was a big thing – there was nothing like it.”
He continued, “They were able to take the elements of everything that had gone before, from 1973 to 1983. They were like a synopsis or a culmination of the whole 10 years of hip-hop before that. The unbelievable aspect of Run-DMC is that they compressed a decade into a recording act: two dudes and a DJ. Run-DMC made me seriously know that hip-hop can be as big as Rock’n’Roll.”
You can listen to ‘Rock Box’ below.