Public Enemy rapper Chuck D visits MU, discusses rap, education

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — "D, the enemy tellin' you to hear it/ they praised the music, this time they play the lyrics." These words and those of other Public Enemy hits blared through the speakers in the Missouri Theatre as people wandered in and settled in their seats.

Who is Chuck D?

Chuck D, or Carlton D. Ridenhour is one of the founding members of the 1980s rap group Public Enemy. Public Enemy started in 1982 with the name Spectrum City. In 1986, the group was signed to the Def Jam record label. It is known for its politically driven rhymes that address social and racial issues. Some of the group's most popular songs were "Fight the Power," "Don't Believe the Hype" and "He Got Game".

The music faded away before the rapper who helped create it took the stage, but Public Enemy rapper Chuck D's music and the genres of hip-hip and rap stayed constant in his talk, "Race, Rap and Reality," on Tuesday night.

"For the longest period of time, hip-hop has been my religion," Chuck D said.

The lecture, a part of MU's Black History Month programming in February that was postponed because of inclement weather, hit on a wide range of topics including the importance of intelligence, self-definition and selfies.

In his "conversation," as he called it, Chuck D explained the histories and the relationships between rap, hip-hop and DJ culture. Rap and hip-hop, originally a rebellion to what was currently on the radio, have yet to be defined by America's curriculum of culture and music, he said. But he encouraged his listeners to define the things that they love, like he has been a part of defining rap and hip-hop.

Although the two may not be defined, both rap and hip-hop are high art and should be treated as such, Chuck D said. Treating them as low art would be like "sagging at a wedding."

"The music doesn't mean that we don't salute intellectualism," Chuck D said. "Rap and hip-hop can be considered high art."

He congratulated all of the college students in the crowd and emphasized the importance of education.

"Coming to a college in a fine building like this, in a fine campus like this, where students have been coming for a hundred years, I salute y'all if you're a collegiate here," Chuck D said.

Chuck D graduated from Adelphi University in 1984. A few years ago, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university.

"Don't keep intelligence to yourself," Chuck D said. "It's to be spread around."

But he also warned his audience to not be consumed by technology and to be "smarter than your smartphone." It's important to keep engaged with the rest of the world, he said.

"Pay attention. It's the cheapest price you'll pay," Chuck D said.

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