Public Enemy has partied for the right to fight since the 1987 release of their debut Def Jam Records LP, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. More than just a rap group, Public Enemy helped define hip-hop as a social and cultural movement. Unafraid to shout the truth about the United States' economic, racial, and social oppression, Public Enemy backed their message with some of the hardest, funkiest, and most revolutionary beats and rhymes ever constructed, making the group one of the most influential hip-hop acts of all time.
PE was formed in 1982 when Chuck D met Hank Shocklee and Bill Stephney (PE producers who became known as the Bomb Squad) at Adelphi University student radio station WBAU, where Chuck was a DJ. Eloquent, endowed with a deeply resonant voice, and possessing a passionate commitment to social reform, Chuck recruited longtime friends William Drayton (aka Flava Flav), DJ Terminator X, and Professor Griff to join the posse.
Flava Flav — the original joker sidekick — served as the comedic prototype for Busta Rhymes and Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard, while lyricist Chuck D dropped sermons inspired by Malcolm X and Huey Newton and encouraged countless MCs to broadcast their views on “Black CNN” (as Chuck called rap). Inspired by the militant stylings and ideology of the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers, PE even formed a security arm called S1W (Security of the 1st World) in defiance of anyone being relegated to a lesser world.
After five years together, PE released their groundbreaking 1988 album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, which caught the attention of rock and rap critics and fans. The '89 anthem “Fight the Power,” featured in Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing, turned the self-proclaimed public enemy No. 1 into a Public Enemy with a number on the charts.
Although PE's early work unassailably makes them one of the most influential acts in hip-hop history, their releases following 1991's Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black, failed to pack the same punch and were dissed by critics and the record-buying public. Chuck D, however, has continued his career as both a musician and a producer. He has launched an Internet record label, SlamJamz.com, as well as two online radio stations, Rapstation.com and BringtheNoise.com. He's published a biography called Fight the Power; done voice-overs for the NFL; and, with Gary G-Wiz, coproduced music for television and film, including the theme to the Dark Angel TV series.
Their individual endeavors notwithstanding, PE's early ear-bending works continue to inspire, to provoke, and to maintain their relevance, both musically and socially. The reverberations sent out by their trademark mix of politicized rhymes over a dense collage of relentless sirens, throbbing bass, and propulsive drum tracks are heard in the sounds coming out of the electronic underground and the Top 40 overground. Public Enemy brought not only the noise but also the words and ideas to go with it.