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    Chuck D

    Chuck D Biography

    AS one of the trailblazers of the rap movement, Chuck D was promoting New York hip-hop acts as early as 1979. The son of political activists, he was studying graphic design when he was drawn into the music scene, which had formerly been just a hobby. The turning point came when he saw Dick Gregory, the activist, comedian, and health nut, give a speech that stressed education through entertainment. This would become the basic principle of Public Enemy, which he formed in 1986 with friend Hank Shocklee. When Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, and Terminator X came on board, writers dubbed them the "Black Panthers of rap," and their influence on the burgeoning rap music scene was unrivaled through the remainder of the decade.

    Their critical reputation was established with their album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, in 1987. The squadrons of security forces that accompanied the group's tour attracted some media attention, as did the anti-Semitic cracks of Professor Griff, a Nation of Islam follower (he was expelled from the band, but later rehired). Public Enemy's next album, It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, rose high on Billboard's charts and made People's list of the best rap recordings ever made. The group's Apocalypse '91 was another top-five seller, and their video for "By the Time I Get to Arizona" raised a storm of controversy. The song, written as a protest to Arizona's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a national holiday, was accompanied by a video that featured a reenactment of the King assassination spliced with shots of sixties civil rights protests. It ended with a series of assassinations.

    Rolling Stone named Public Enemy Best Rap Group in 1991. The group's later efforts were not up to previous standards, however, and in 1995, Chuck D announced the group's demise. On his own, Chuck D scored much of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and he appears as a frequent lecturer at minority schools, urging kids to stay away from drugs and violence. His late 1996 solo release, Autobiography of Mistachuck, provided an indictment of the unrealistic expectations for easy money that the music industry promotes in poor black communities and established beyond a doubt his standing as the conscience of rap. Chuck D's influence should not be underestimated: Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot claims that "What Bob Dylan did for rock in the 1960s, what George Clinton did for funk and Bob Marley did for reggae in the 1970s, Public Enemy's Chuck D has done for rap: given it legitimacy and authority far beyond its core following."

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