It’s hard to believe in this day and age of blinged-out narcissistic rants that there was once a time when it seemed hip-hop music could save the world. The music was bold, fresh, and gave voice to a generation that so desperately needed to be heard and understood. Leading that charge was the militant, socially conscious sound of Long Island’s Public Enemy. UCSB’s MultiCultural Center is bringing Public Enemy’s frontman Chuck D to the Isla Vista Theater on February 15 at 7 p.m. for a talk. Here’s why the “Hard Rhymer” should not be missed.
#1Fear of a Black Planet and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back : These two albums alone cemented Public Enemy as music royalty. A musical call to arms, these albums simultaneously terrified parents, inspired the youth, and confronted controversial social issues like racism, poverty, and police brutality in a way few have rarely done before or since. #2Rapstation.com : This Web site launched by Chuck D in 1999 was years ahead of its time, trumpeting elements of Internet culture that have since become mainstream. A one-stop shop for hip-hop info, social commentary, current events, free MP3 downloads, and ring tones, Chuck D was blazing new ground when he dropped this dot-com on the world.
#3“Fight the Power”: The 1989 song proclaimed: “Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / Straight up racist that sucker was simple and plain / Motherfuck him and John Wayne / ’Cause I’m black and I’m proud. / I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped / Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps.” With a rallying chorus to “fight the powers that be!” it remains disturbingly relevant today.
#4 The man himself: Above all else, Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) has a vicious and brilliant political mind. Besides penning and spitting lyrics — including the eye-opening songs “Bin Laden” in the wake of 9/11 about America’s funding of mujahideen and “Hell No We Ain’t All Right!” after Katrina — Chuck D has contributed to PBS documentaries, testified before Congress, hosted his own talk show on Air America Radio, published a book on rap, race, and reality, and narrated a film about the evils of the diamond trade in Africa.