Almost Famous

The Avenues to Success

Chuck ‘D’

ChuckEnter the 1960s and breathe in a world of revolution and restoration. The music, the experimental drugs, and more importantly, the culture, were a unified fist fighting for peace. Although some of the means were wrong, the purpose was there, and it is this unification that all of us secretly long for in our broken, weary hearts in today’s age. Enter the 1960s and also enter the birthplace of Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Roosevelt, New York or as the world now recognizes him as, “Chuck D.” For the much younger crowd, Chuck D was the man behind the socially conscience rap group called ‘Public Enemy,” which may be remembered for the outrageous antics by Flava Flav, but should be dissected for its lyrics and depth of honesty and boldness. Today, Chuck D is now recognized as a legend, and rightfully so, but a legend in a music industry is he no longer performing in. Although Public Enemy may have faded in the distance, it seems we need them now more than ever. Chuck D may not be throwing a fist in the air on stage and educating his audience about worthy causes in a lyrical composition, but he is still just as appealing and influential. He has been called a humanitarian and a role model, but more importantly, he is able to step outside the media box and steer the future in the right direction. New York University students filed in the Skirball Performing Center as they normally do expecting to sit only several feet in front of a celebrity. A celebrity they would take hundreds of pictures of without a giving a second thought about the magnitude of his influence. The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU opens the eyes and ears to real, effective social change.Chuck D’s approach was from the perspective of the media and shutting out their ideas and creating our own. Particularly in the African American community, Chuck heavily focused on the media’s way of defining African American culture, “We do shit, somebody else defines us,” he said. Networks like MTV, BET, and radio stations like Hot 97’ here in NYC, according to Chuck, are poor depictions of reality and to base our musical tastes and definitions of genres on them is just another way media defines our world.

Chuck reminded the students at NYU to be who you are and be proud of what you represent where many artists are falling short. Think of the artists on the radio we look up to, who are they really under all of the stardom? Dissecting the world through the microscope of Chuck D was refreshing because it was from a perspective that hardly exits in popular culture. Chuck on stage was more than an artist, writer, or speaker; he was a symbol for social change and not in the musical sense, which may have been overlooked by some. Artists like Public Enemy probably would not get radio play on today’s media sector because it seems the media has already defined what music is and we obey and listen to that claim. While NYU students will not all enter the music industry and have the know-how to be social entrepreneurs, Chuck reminds us to simply stay in school. This NYU community can stand against this “radio radiation movie nation,” as Chuck put it, and rise against backwards thinking. The transformation of celebrity to social activist occurred on that stage and that is what perhaps gave the audience the sense of being dumbfounded and star struck. It was in this refreshing view of celebrity status the audience could throw-up a fist and shout, “fight the power!”

Real talk.


January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment