Chuck D from the legendary rap group Public Enemy is well versed in controversy. The group was notorious for using rap to tackle issues of politics and racism with a confrontational timbre.
On Tuesday night, Chuck D dropped the beat and talked directly to students about “Race, Rap and Reality” in the Storer Auditorium.
He addressed an auditorium full of students for more than two hours on a number of topics including politics, music, education and economics.
Public Enemy, which was most prominent in the late ’80s and early ’90s, holds a reputation as one of the first rap acts to discuss social issues in their lyrics.
They gained widespread popularity through their song “Fight the Power,” which was featured in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing. Public Enemy was also ranked number 44 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
During his lecture, which he referred to as a “vibe session,” Chuck D stressed the importance of education and understanding.
“We’re entering a realm where silencing intelligence is at an all-time high,” said Chuck D, who applauded the students for their academic efforts. “Minds are the real estate of the millennium.”
He added: “Learn the history of what you love. If you like something, know about it thoroughly. It’s all right to be a nerd. Be a nerd at whatever you like.”
He went on to discuss politics and the current war in Iraq. He expressed his support for Barack Obama, and emphasized the importance of foreign relations.
Chuck D, who has been touring college campuses since 1991 also explained the relationship between hip-hop and politics.
“Being on the streets is just knowing the streets, but politics is knowing who controls those streets,” Chuck D said. “Hip-hop was always that flashlight to know who controls what. There was always a curiosity factor involved into looking at who has the bottom line in your environment.”
Chuck D also provided an explanation for the title to another Public Enemy hit, “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
“What it means is to challenge your information,” Chuck D said. “And it’s coming from more places today than it was back then.”
Despite the varying opinions of his audience, Chuck D said he believes the most important thing young students can learn from him is to make their own decisions.
“I want students to leave with their own mind,” he said. “I want people to have control of their thoughts and opinions and make sure their opinions are based somewhere around the facts so they can hold on to those things.”
Joel Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.