Public Enemy broke down barriers and sparked their own revolution when they stepped on the scene with 1987’s Yo! Bum Rush The Show. From there, groundbreaking albums such as It Takes A Nation Of Millions…To Hold Us Back (1988) and Fear Of A Black Planet (1990) would change Hip Hop forever.
None of that would’ve been possible without the Public Enemy mastermind, Mr. Chuck D. The Queens, New York native and Adelphi University graduate was born on August 1, 1960, making today Chuck’s 59th birthday.
As Public Enemy was getting off the ground, Chuck refused to sign with any label unless Flavor Flav was part of the deal. Ultimately, they signed with Def Jam Recordings. In a 2017 interview with HipHopDX, Doctor Dre of Yo! MTV Raps fame recalled Russell Simmons actually tossing Public Enemy’s “garbage” demo out of a window.
“I used to play tapes we made on the bus with everybody,” Dre said. “They eventually heard ‘Public Enemy #1’ because the song was a radio promo. When I first played it, Russell was sleeping on Rick’s bed at NYU and Rick [Rubin] heard it and said, ‘Yo, this is a’ight. This is cool. But me being with the Beasties for so long, they kept telling Rick about it, so I played it for ’em.
“Russell got up, walked to the tape deck and threw the cassette out the window. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘This is garbage, man. Nobody’s ever going to listen to that.’ Months later — Chuck, myself and [former Def Jam exec] Bill Stephney were in the same music class with Harry Allen — after going back and forth with everyone, I basically brought Public Enemy over there.”
Now, Public Enemy is considered one of the most influential and impactful Hip Hop groups of all time. Public Enemy posters even popped up in the Black Panther blockbuster last year.
He told DX at the time, “To see it in the movie twice, it was prideful, yes. It felt good. I knew it was going to happen, but to see it happen was definitely prideful. A lot of people didn’t see the first one. That photo shoot was in Birmingham, U.K. our second year and that’s right before It Takes A Nation came out.”
After countless worldwide tours, celebrated albums and a lifetime of dedication to his craft, Chuck is still at it.
Earlier this year, Chuck and his Public Enemy Radio brethren wrapped up the Gods Of Rap Tour with De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan and host DJ Premier.
Currently, he’s overseas with his other group Prophets Of Rage, which also includes Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Rage Against The Machine’s Tim Commerford, Tom Morello and Brad Wilk and Public Enemy’s DJ Lord.
Chuck is living proof “age ain’t nothing but a number.”
Despite his many accolades and career triumphs — including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — Chuck has maintained his humble demeanor, not an easy feat in the music industry.
In addition to his artistic and musical talent, Chuck’s compassion for others, unique wisdom, deep understanding of music and down-to-earth attitude make him a rare breed, so it’s no surprise he’s highly revered by his peers.
Happy Birthday Chuck!