Chuck D is an outspoken cultural figure and has dedicated his life to the production and documentation of rap music. Since his emergence as part of the legendary New York collective Public Enemy, the emcee (real name Carl Ridenhour) has been a voice for the disenfranchised youth of America and continues to speak on issues to this day.
In contemporary hip-hop, artists often get propelled to stardom on their own, and (if they were part of one) their former crew lurks in the shadows. However, during the genre’s golden age, entire crews were the entities that labels chose to sign, and this was the case until the 2000s.
From N.W.A. to the Wu-Tang Clan and more, crews were an essential part of hip-hop during its early days. Collectives such as Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, alongside Sugar Hill Gang, were instrumental in the evolution of rap music and are often overlooked by the new generation of artists.
Chuck D was the frontman of Public Enemy during the mid-1980s and early 1990s. However, as well as crews, now and then, a duo would pop up. From Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock to Eric B and Rakim, tag teams made quite an impact. Trios also began emerging, such as The Beastie Boys and De La Soul.
In an interview with SPIN magazine last year in celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, Chuck D unveiled some of his opinions on artists of the golden era. When asked about a project he believes is highly underrated, Ridenhour responded, “In Full Gear by Stetsasonic.”
In a follow-up question, Ridenhour was asked to pick his favourite rap crew of all time, to which he simply responded, “Run-DMC. Period. They moved rap into the rock arena sphere.” You can listen to Run-DMC’s most well-known song in the video below.
However, one of the most interesting questions was when the lyricist was asked about unsung heroes and figures who get overlooked. Speaking about some of his personal icons, Ridenhour professed, “MC Shan doesn’t get enough credit. Andre ‘Doctor Dre’ Brown of Yo! MTV Raps and Original Concept doesn’t get enough credit.” You can listen to the legendary MC Shan track ‘The Bridge’ below.