Public Enemy’s Chuck D is set to be honored with the 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize.
Chuck D, the founder and lead rapper in the iconic hip hop group Public Enemy, went on to become an author and social activist during his musical career. His contributions to social issues, especially about the Black community, as well as his writing and music, have earned him the award. The prize is named after American folk singer Woody Guthrie, and honors artists who use their talents to advocate for people who do not have a platform, Variety reports.
“Woody was a fighter for the people, and Chuck D’s message has consistently aligned with Woody’s: choose a side, fight the power and work for a better world,” said Deana McCloud, director of the Woody Guthrie Center, referencing Public Enemy’s galvanizing 1989 song “Fight the Power,” which was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing.” “We are honored to recognize Chuck’s work as he shines a light on social and cultural issues through his words and encourages us all to take action for equality and justice. We know that Woody would be rapping right alongside him as he speaks truth to power.” Some of the previous honorees include, gospel singer Mavis Staples, “One Day at a Time” producer Norman Lear and folk singer Pete Seeger.
Chuck D was born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, and in the 1980s, he created the rap group Public Enemy. The group released its debut album in 1987, but it wasn’t until the following year that the group saw major success with its ”It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” hit that set the tone for the group’s journey. Other songs that shook the nation were “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Bring the Noise.” In 2013, Chuck was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Public Enemy. Chuck D also released four solo albums and formed the group Prophets of Rage with members of Cypress Hill and Rage Against the Machine.
He took his talents to literature and penned “Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality” with Yusef Jah, which addressed negative stereotypes surrounding rap music. In 2010, the rapper dropped a track called “Tear Down That Wall,” which fought against racial profiling and border control. Additionally, Chuck acts as a spokesman for activist organizations Rock the Vote, the National Urban League, Americans for the Arts Council, and the National Alliance for African-American Athletes. He is on the board of the TransAfrica Forum, an organization focused on African, Caribbean, and Latin American political issues. He is also the narrator of the eight-episode Spotify podcast “Stay Free: The Story of The Clash.” He uses the parallels between Public Enemy and London punk rock band The Clash to discuss the band’s relevant politics and history.
The Woody Guthrie Center will present the prize at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 16.