Chuck D

Carlton Douglas Ridenhour (born August 1, 1960), known professionally as Chuck D, is an American rapper, author, and producer.[1] As the leader of the rap group Public Enemy, he helped create politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s. The Source ranked him at No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time.[2]

Chuck D
Chuck D in 2000
Background information
Birth nameCarlton Douglas Ridenhour
Also known asCarl Ryder, Mistachuck, Chucky D, Chuck Dangerous, The Hard Rhymer, The Rhyme Animal, Chuck D
Born (1960-08-01) August 1, 1960
Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
OriginRoosevelt, Long Island, New York, U.S.
  • Rapper
  • publisher
  • lecturer
  • activist
  • record producer
Years active1981–present
Associated actsPublic Enemy, Prophets of Rage, Confrontation Camp, Fine Arts Militia, Immortal Technique, Sonic Youth, Sister Souljah, KRS-One, Living Colour, Vanilla Ice, Ludacris, Rage Against the Machine, Anthrax, LL Cool J, Mat Zo, Ice Cube

Early life

Ridenhour was born in Queens, New York.[3] He began writing rhymes after the New York City blackout of 1977.[4] After graduating from Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School, he went to Adelphi University on Long Island to study graphic design, where he met William Drayton (Flavor Flav). He received a B.F.A. from Adelphi in 1984 and later received an honorary doctorate from Adelphi in 2013.

While at Adelphi, Ridenhour co-hosted hip hop radio show the Super Spectrum Mix Hour as Chuck D on Saturday nights at Long Island rock radio station WLIR, designed flyers for local hip-hop events, and drew a cartoon called Tales of the Skind for Adelphi student newspaper The Delphian.[4]


Upon hearing Ridenhour's demo track "Public Enemy Number One", fledgling producer/upcoming music-mogul Rick Rubin insisted on signing him to his Def Jam label.[5]

Their major label albums were 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.[6]

Later career

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".[7] He later described the decision to sue as "stupid".[8]

In September 1999, he launched a multi-format "supersite" on the web site The site includes a TV and radio station with original programming, prominent hip hop 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. In 2003, he was featured in the PBS documentary Godfathers and Sons in which he recorded a version of Muddy Waters' song "Mannish Boy" with Common, Electrik Mud Cats, and Kyle Jason.[9] 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.[10]

In March 2011, Chuck D re-recorded vocals with The Dillinger Escape Plan for a cover of "Fight the Power".

Chuck D 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.

In July 2019, Ridenhour sued Terrordome Music Publishing and Reach Music Publishing for $1 million for withholding royalties.[11]

Rapping technique and creative process

Chuck D is known for his powerful rapping. How to Rap says he "has a powerful, resonant voice that is often acclaimed as one of the most distinct and impressive in hip-hop".[12] Chuck says this was based on listening to Melle Mel and sportscasters such as Marv Albert.[12]

Chuck often comes up with a title for a song first.[13][14] He writes on paper, though sometimes edits using a computer.[15] He prefers to not punch in[16] or overdub vocals.[17]

Chuck listed his favourite rap albums in Hip Hop Connection: 10. N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton 9. Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded 8. Run-DMC, Tougher Than Leather 7. Big Daddy Kane, Looks Like a Job For... 6. Stetsasonic, In Full Gear 5. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted 4. Dr. Dre, The Chronic 3. De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising 2. Eric B. & Rakim, Follow the Leader 1. Run-DMC, Raising Hell ("It was the first record that made me realise this was an album-oriented genre")[18]


Chuck D identifies as Black, as opposed to African or African-American. In a 1993 issue of DIRT Magazine covering a taping of In the Mix hosted by Alimi Ballard at the Apollo, Dan Field writes,

"At one point, Chuck bristles a bit at the term "African-American." He thinks of himself as Black and sees nothing wrong with the term. Besides, he says, having been born in the United States and lived his whole life here, he doesn't consider himself African. Being in Public Enemy has given him the chance to travel around the world, an experience that really opened his eyes and his mind. He says visiting Africa and experiencing life on a continent where the majority of people are Black gave him a new perspective and helped him get in touch with his own history. He also credits a trip to the ancient Egyptian pyramids at Giza with helping him appreciate the relative smallness of man." [19]

Ridenhour is politically active; he co-hosted Unfiltered on Air America Radio, testified before Congress in support of peer-to-peer MP3 sharing, and was involved in a 2004 rap political convention. He has continued to be an activist, publisher, lecturer, and producer.

Addressing the negative views associated with rap music, he co-wrote the essay book Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality with Yusuf Jah. He argues that "music and art and culture is escapism, and escapism sometimes is healthy for people to get away from reality", but sometimes the distinction is blurred and that's when "things could lead a young mind in a direction."[20] He also founded the record company Slam Jamz and acted as narrator in Kareem Adouard's short film Bling: Consequences and Repercussions, which examines the role of conflict diamonds in bling fashion. Despite Chuck D and Public Enemy's success, Chuck D claims that popularity or public approval was never a driving motivation behind their work. He is admittedly skeptical of celebrity status, revealing in a 1999 interview with BOMB Magazine that, "The key for the record companies is to just keep making more and more stars, and make the ones who actually challenge our way of life irrelevant. The creation of celebrity has clouded the minds of most people in America, Europe and Asia. It gets people off the path they need to be on as individuals."[21]

In an interview with Le Monde published January 29, 2008,[22] Chuck D stated that rap is devolving so much into a commercial enterprise, that the relationship between the rapper and the record label is that of slave to a master. He believes that nothing has changed for African-Americans since the debut of Public Enemy and, although he thinks that an Obama-Clinton alliance is great, he does not feel that the establishment will allow anything of substance to be accomplished. He stated that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is like any other European elite: he has profited through the murder, rape, and pillaging of those less fortunate and he refuses to allow equal opportunity for those men and women from Africa. In this article, he defended a comment made by Professor Griff in the past that he says was taken out of context by the media. The real statement was a critique of the Israeli government and its treatment of the Palestinian people. Chuck D stated that it is Public Enemy's belief that all human beings are equal.[22]

In an interview with the magazine N'Digo published in June 2008, he spoke of today's mainstream urban music seemingly relishing the addictive euphoria of materialism and sexism, perhaps being the primary cause of many people harboring resentment towards the genre and its future. However, he has expressed hope for its resurrection, saying "It's only going to be dead if it doesn't talk about the messages of life as much as the messages of death and non-movement", citing artists such as NYOil, M.I.A. and The Roots as socially conscious artists who push the envelope creatively. "A lot of cats are out there doing it, on the Web and all over. They're just not placing their career in the hands of some major corporation."[23]

In 2010, Chuck D released a track, "Tear Down That Wall". He said, "I talked about the wall not only just dividing the U.S. and Mexico but the states of California, New Mexico and Texas. But Arizona, it's like, come on. Now they're going to enforce a law that talks about basically racial profiling."[24]

He is on the board of the TransAfrica Forum, a Pan African organization that is focused on African, Caribbean and Latin American issues.

Personal life

He is a pescetarian.[25]

TV appearances

Film appearances

Music appearances

  • In 1991, Chuck featured on Sonic Youth single Kool Thing.
  • In 1993, Chuck rapped on "New Agenda" from Janet Jackson's janet. "I loved his work, but I'd never met him…" said Jackson. "I called Chuck up and told him how much I admired their work. When I hear Chuck, it's like I'm hearing someone teaching, talking to a whole bunch of people. And instead of just having the rap in the bridge, as usual, I wanted him to do stuff all the way through. I sent him a tape. He said he loved the song, but he was afraid he was going to mess it up. I said, 'Are you kidding?'"[28]
  • In 2001, Chuck D appeared on Japanese electronic duo Boom Boom Satellites track "Your Reality's A Fantasy But Your Fantasy Is Killing Me," off the album Umbra.
  • In 2010, Chuck D made an appearance on the track "Transformação" (Portuguese for "Transformation") from Brazilian rapper MV Bill's album Causa E Efeito (pt:Causa e Efeito, meaning Cause And Effect).
  • In 2003 he was featured on the track "Access to the Excess" in Junkie XL's album Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin.
  • In 2011 Chuck D made an appearance on the track "Blue Sky / Mad Mad World / The Good God Is A Woman And She Don't Like Ugly" from Meat Loaf's 2011 album Hell In A Handbasket.
  • In 2013, he has appeared in Mat Zo's single, "Pyramid Scheme."
  • In 2013 he performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Music Masters concert tribute to the Rolling Stones.
  • In 2014 he performed with Jahi on "People Get Ready" and "Yo!" from the first album by Public Enemy spin-off project PE 2.0
  • In 2016 he appeared in ASAP Ferg's album "Always Strive and Prosper" on the track "Beautiful People".
  • In 2017 he was featured on the track "America" on Logic's album "Everybody".[29]
  • In 2019, he appeared on "Story of Everything", a song on Threads, the final album by Sheryl Crow. The track also features Andra Day and Gary Clark Jr.


with Public Enemy

Studio albums

with Confrontation Camp

Studio albums

with Prophets of Rage

Studio albums

Studio EPs

  • The Party's Over (2016)


Studio albums

Compilation albums

  • Action (DJ Matheos Worldwide International Remix) - Most*hifi (featuring Chuck D. and Huggy) (2010)[32]
  • Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin' (as Mistachuck) (2012)


  • Chang, Jeff (2005). Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: Picador. ISBN 0312425791.


  1. D, Chuck; Jah, Yusuf (2007). Chuck D: Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary. Gardena, Calif.: Offda. ISBN 978-0-9749484-1-6.
  2. "The Source: Top 50 Lyricists [Magazine Scans] - Genius". Genius. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  3. "Chuck D biography". MTV Artists. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  4. Chang 2005, pp. 237-238.
  5. "Hip-hop, you don't stop". the Guardian. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  6. "Chief Groovy Loo And The Chosen Tribe". Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  7. Reiss, Randy (November 17, 1998). "Public Enemy's Chuck D Settles B.I.G. Copyright Suit". MTV. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  8. paul.arnold (March 9, 2012). "Chuck D Explains Why Suing The Notorious B.I.G. Was "Stupid" And Why Jay-Z And Kanye West's Bases Are "Corrupt To Rap"". HipHopDX. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  9. Gallo, Phil (September 2, 2003). "Godfathers & Sons". Variety.
  10. Williams, Kam (June 30, 2009). "The Love Ethic". Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  11. "Chuck D Sues Publishing Company Reach Music for Withholding Royalties". Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  12. Edwards, p. 248.
  13. Edwards, p. 31.
  14. Coleman, Brian. Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8129-7775-2. p. 360.
  15. Edwards, p. 143.
  16. Edwards, p. 280.
  17. Edwards, p. 282.
  18. Fletcher, Mansel (March 2000). "100 Best Albums Ever". Hip Hop Connection: 21-42.
  19. Field, Dan (1993). "New York, New York; Chuck D, Public Enemy's Mouthpiece". DIRT Magazine (Zine) via Online Archive of California; University of California, Los Angeles Library Special Collections.
  20. "Chuck D: The D is for Dangerous". Crave Online. August 6, 2007. Archived from the original on August 7, 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
  21. Thorpe, David (Summer 1999). "Chuck D". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  22. Mortaigne, Véronique (January 29, 2008). "Chuck D : let rap sans strass" [Chuck D: Rap Without Rhinestones]. Le Monde (in French). Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  23. Muhammad, Cinque. "Hip-Hop Conspiracy? Critics charge conscious rap is silenced." N'Digo Online. June 26 - July 2, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  24. "Chuck D Takes Aim at Arizona; Public Enemy In the Studio". Billboard. September 14, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  25. "Fight the Power With Chuck D". Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  26. "A discussion of the music wars on the internet". Archived from the original on April 23, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  27. "Newsnight debate on unity in America". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  28. Q, June 1993
  29. "Stream Logic's New Album 'Everybody'". XXL. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  30. "RCS Music".
  31. "Chuck D Drops New Video and New Album". Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  32. "Action (DJ Matheos Worldwide International Remix)". Retrieved December 2, 2013.

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