28 Oct 2023

Chuck D rapping lyrical

From Saturday Morning, 10:06 am on 28 October 2023

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 23: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Chuck D of Public Enemy performs onstage during the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 23, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.   Rich Polk/Getty Images for iHeartRadio/AFP (Photo by Rich Polk / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Chuck D of Public Enemy performs onstage during the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 23, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: RICH POLK / GETTY / AFP

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop, a musical, cultural and political movement that started in the Bronx and went global.

As a founding member and main MC for Public Enemy, Chuck D was a pioneer of the movement, with his booming baritone rapping on seminal tracks like 'Fight The Power', highlighting social issues affecting Black communities.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Speaking to Kim Hill on Saturday Morning, Chuck D says he was 13 years old when he first came across hip hop, although he was more of a sports fan at the time. 

"It was the Bronx's political answer back at what was stripped away from it," he says,

"So when the term of hip hop came about in the seventies, I was in my teenage years, I was ready for it. I wasn't easily quickly sold on it, but when it started to manifest."

"It was a combination of technology and assembly and togetherness that turned me on by the time I was 16."

While hip hop celebrates its 50th anniversary this year - marking the date of a party held by DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell - Chuck D says that while the term originated at that moment, the elements of the culture went back much further.

"It's silly to get into who invented an aspect of a culture, but I wanted to be clear on the start point for this term that we call hip hop, as opposed to the elements which have its own lineage that goes back hundreds or even thousands of years."

Chuck D would go on to form Public Enemy with hype-man Flavor Flav in 1985 and they were signed to Def Jam Records - reluctantly, however. 

"My Def Jam contract was the great surrender," Chuck D says, adding that the group only signed with the label as they needed radio play. 

A master of collaborations, Chuck D says he's never made music without collaborating with others. And he's since collaborated on a number on interesting new projects. 

Chuck D of Public Enemy performing in Malmo in 1991

Chuck D of Public Enemy performing in 1991. Photo: CC BY 3.0/ John Leffmann

He's remained a revolutionary voice in hip-hop and co-produced a four-part documentary series Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World. 

He's also launched a "cultural app" called Bring the Noise, which he describes as "the same thing that TikTok does for 35 and over".

"We tell people go there, post your best," he says.

And he's also branched out into the world of fitness, thanks to his trainer Kathy Lopez and her invention, "Rap Pilates" - a combination of pilates, yoga and strength training. The pair hope to release a book about the technique. 

"Rather than going and beating your body up, we're telling men 40 years and over to get into stretching," he says.

"A lot of times males and their workout thing, it's all rooted in this machoistic kind of beat your body up and we're trying to show another way."

At 63, you might think Chuck D might not have time for all of these projects, but he says it's hours of downtime on tour that fuels a lot of his creativity. 

"My downtime, I might just be sketching. Downtime adds up," he says.

"I first got involved in doing a lot of my artwork in 2016, off of trying to figure out what I do in my downtime in a hotel room.

"After a while you figure out you have hours and hours of downtime to create. So I can write a song on downtime, I can do illustrations on downtime."

"I guess it seems I'm running all over the place when these things have been created in perpetuity with my pulse rate."