A colossal figure in hip hop has emerged another year older today: Carlton Douglas “Chuck D” Ridenhour, founding member of the bombastic, challenging rap crew Public Enemy, is now 58 years old. In all those years, he’s heralded an entire generation of political thought in the world of rap.
Back in the ’80s, his use of the genre saw him combining his gifts of rhetoric and creativity to create music rife with sociocultural commentary. Now it’s hard to imagine hip hop as a genre that operates any differently; seemingly at its core are these tenets. But these were set in place by Chuck D and artists like him. Had it not been for their longstanding legacy and creative contributions, no Kendrick, J. Cole, or Joey Bada$$ might have had the tools to exist today.
Today at Paste, we celebrate the radically minded, musically inventive Chuck D. for these contributions and those yet to come. After all, he’s still hard at work: Just this summer, he wrapped up a tour with rap super group Prophets of Rage, featuring members from the former Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine.
Honor one of hip hop’s greatest forefathers with a listen to this 1999 original Public Enemy concert recording at New York City’s legendary venue, Tramps, below.