Public EnemyHip-Hop | 2008
Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour) formed Public Enemy in 1982 as he was studying graphic design at Long Island’s Adelphi University. Def Jam Records cofounder and producer Rick Rubin heard a tape of Chuck D rapping over a song called “Public Enemy Number One” and began courting him for the label. Chuck D put together a crew consisting of DJ Terminator X (born Norman Rogers), fellow Nation of Islam member Professor Griff (born Richard Griffin), and fellow rapper Flavor Flav (born William J. Drayton, Jr.). With Chuck D’s booming voice and somber rhymes and Flavor Flav’s flashy performance, Public Enemy sought to mix extreme production with revolutionary politics. The group’s debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was recorded in Hempstead and released on Def Jam in 1987—the album was later selected as one of The Source Magazine’s 100 Best Rap Albums and, in 2003, was ranked No. 497 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The group’s second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, with its mix of avant-garde and funk sounds, became certified platinum by the RIAA. After several more albums, Chuck D retired Public Enemy from touring in 1995 and formed his own label. Although the member roster has changed over time, Public Enemy continues to be a vital force in rap music.