Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is a YouTube Playlist of music by Public Enemy

Public Enemy is considered to be one of the most influential rap bands in music history. They have given rap legitimacy beyond its core following through their delivery of controversial lyrics dealing with social issues.

Public Enemy was officially formed in 1982 by rapper Chuck D. (Carlton Ridenhour, born in 1960), who was studying art at Adelphi University (New York). He was joined by producer, Hank Shocklee, and publicist, Bill Stepheny as the initial members. The group signed onto the Def Jam label and then recruited D.J. Terminator X (Norman Lee Rogers, born in 1966), Professor Griff (Richard Griff), and Flavor Flav (William Drayton, born in 1959).

Although formed in 1982, Public Enemy did not release a record until 1987, when the album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show was released and received critical praise but failed commercially. Their next album, It Takes Millions To Hold Us Back got a much better reception and it rose high on the Billboard charts and made People Magazine's list as one of the best rap recordings ever made. The album was considered revolutionary as Chuck D. rapped about social problems plaguing the black community and pushed for social activism.

The power delivered by Chuck D. was balanced with the humor delivered by the group's visual focal point, Flavor Flav, who was known for his sunglasses and a huge clock hanging from around his neck. Working with the production team, Bomb Squad, Public Enemy found their sound by sampling indistinguishable cuts, incorporating funk, and building upon Run-D.M.C.'s street oriented beats. It was clear that from this point on that Public Enemy saw itself as a revolutionary social force; and as they built their powerful music with avant-garde cut and paste techniques, deep funk and relentless beats they rewrote the rules of hip-hop.

Just as easily as Public Enemy received praise commercially and critically, they met as much controversy for their militant stance and positive endorsement of Black Muslim leader, Louis Farrakhan. Griff's anti-Semitic remarks also added to the fire that eventually led to his dismissal from the group in 1989.

Despite the negative publicity, Public Enemy continued to generate top selling albums. In 1990 the album, Fear of a Black Planet reached the top 10 spot on the pop charts. The following year, the album, Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black continued their success as it reached #4 on the pop charts. Public Enemy sought to appeal to their white audience by making their version of "Bring The Noize" featuring the metal band, Anthrax. The album also continued their controversy with the single, "By The Time I Get To Arizona" which referred to Arizona's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday as a national holiday.

The following year, the group faced a hiatus as Flavor Flav ran into trouble with the law and as the group released their negatively reviewed remix collection, Greatest Misses. In 1994, Public Enemy returned with the album, Music Sick-N-Hour Mess Age, which also was not received as well as their earlier work. Chuck D. then retired from touring with the group and broke away from Def Jam Records to start his own label and release his first solo project, "The Autobiography of Mista Chuck". In 1999, Public Enemy then returned again with the album, There's a Poison Goin' On released on the Atomic Pop label. Public Enemy continued to produce albums and you can see a complete discography at AllMusic.

Public Enemy is important not only for the way they developed rap artistically, but for their emphasis on the social concerns of the African American community to which they gave attention and exposure. They often blurred the lines between music and politics by delivering a message that was strongly political and often militant through the entertainment medium.

Page author: L.C. & C.F.