Before Flavor Flav transitioned into a reality TV star on VH1 with his show The Flavor Of Love, he was the iconic, clock-wearing hype man of Chuck D. Acting as the frontman of the legendary New York posse Public Enemy, Chuck D (real name Carlton Ridenhour) captured the world with his poignant political messages. The rapper sparked an intense wave of social consciousness across the globe and has gone down as a legend in hip-hop.
Ridenhour is not beloved for having complicated rhyme schemes but revered for being the individual who rapped Public Enemy’s aggressive yet inspiring ‘Fight the Power’. The Queens emcee mobilised African-Americans across the US and inspired an entire generation of youngsters to use their voices and challenge the unjust status quo of America. As the figure spearheading the Public Enemy movement, Ridenhour helped produce classic rap projects such as the group’s 1988 album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as well as their 1990 project, Fear Of A Black Planet.
These projects, especially the latter, were incendiary, overtly anti-establishment and highly critical of race relations in the US. The cacophony reflected the messy and uncomfortable predicament of the impoverished worldwide, and Ridenhour’s music resonated with people on an unimaginable scale. However, Chuck D’s projects and ideologies didn’t come from a place of ignorance; he was informed by artists and projects he had previously listened to. Now, after more than three decades, the rebellious, riot-starting rapper has shared his influences and even revealed some of the projects that changed his life.
In a conversation with the famed music and fashion magazine i-D, Ridenhour spoke about how specific songs evoke particular emotions in him. When i-D journalist Iain McQuaid asked if the emcee has a song that reminds him of having his heart broken, the Queens act hastily replied, “Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, ‘The Love I Lost’. I mean, that’s obvious, right? How ’bout ‘I Loved and I Lost’ by Curtis Mayfield?”
The pair continued to delve into Ridenhour’s musical background. The two spoke about a vast array of subjects, from Public Enemy to the artist’s kids. However, there were definitive artists and albums that the artist highlighted. For example, when asked if any artists were channelling Public Enemy, Chuck reeled off some recognisable contemporary acts, declaring, “Of course, there are many artists out there. Run the Jewels, I think Killer Mike and El-P are a formidable duo that are saying a lot. Dead Prez haven’t gone anywhere. Dead Prez are still here. Boots Riley and the Coup. Kendrick Lamar. And even Kanye West, when he says something that’s jarring, and he puts his mind to it. There are a lot of artists.” Ridenhour then proceeded to state, “the most powerful voice out there is Brother Ali.”
Chuck D undoubtedly enjoys listening to other artists. However, the acts he named (in his eyes) are the only ones bringing the defiance, rebellion and attitude of Public Enemy. You can watch the gutsy music video for ‘Fight The Power’ below.