Public Enemy

See The Public Enemy for the 1931 movie and Public Enemy (documentary) for the 1999 Black Panthers documentary film.

Public Enemy, also known as PE, are a seminal hip hop group known for their politically charged lyrics and their interest in the concerns of the African American community.

Missing image
The Public Enemy logo. Designed by Chuck D, the image is of E. Love in the sights of a high-power rifle.


PE formed in Long Island, New York in 1982. They were signed to the still developing Def Jam record label after Rick Rubin heard Chuck D freestyling on a demo. It then took roughly five years before their debut, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, was released in 1987 to critical acclaim. They went on to release the revolutionary It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988, which performed better in the charts than their previous release. They also went on to release Fear of a Black Planet which was slightly less militant than their first two releases. It was also the most successful of any of their albums to date and in 2005 was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. It included the singles "911 is a Joke," which criticized emergency response units for taking more time to service people in the black community than those in the white community, and "Fight the Power," which is considered by many to be the group's self-describing single. The song is among the most popular and influential in Hip Hop history and was the theme song for Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.

Public Enemy were pioneers in many ways. For instance, Terminator X elevated DJing to a more refined art. Some of his most innovative scratching tricks can be heard on the song "Rebel Without A Pause". PE revolutionized the rap world with their political, social and cultural consciousness, which infused itself into skilled and poetic rhymes with jazzy backbeats. They also changed the Internet's music distribution capability by being the first group to release MP3 albums, a format virtually unknown at the time.

Origin of name

Chuck D had put out a tape to promote WBAU (the radio station he was working at the time) and to fend off a local rapper who wanted to battle him. He called the tape Public Enemy #1 because he felt like he was being persecuted by people in the local scene. This was the first reference to the notion of a "Public Enemy" in any of Chuck D's songs. The single was created by Chuck D with a contribution by Flavor Flav though this was before the group Public Enemy was assembled.


PE were also infamous for their alignment with S1W (Security of the First World), a militant black power movement. Also, Professor Griff, a member of the group, made many percieved anti-semitic remarks, though he claimed them not to be condemning of all Jews, just Zionists, and as a result was ejected from the band, and the group was listed in an FBI report to Congress entitled "Rap Music and Its Effects on National Security". For this and for their single "Swindler's Lust" the group was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, though many of their fans and the members defended themselves, saying that they were not trying to diminish the events of the Holocaust, rather draw a comparison between the events of the Holocaust and slavery.

Chuck D, the group's leader, has been one of the most vocal supporters of file sharing, claiming that it will perpetuate music and, in the end, help more artists than it will hurt.


They still continue to perform and write, though with some attrition. Terminator X took early retirement and was replaced by Atlanta native DJ Lord as the group's main DJ. Chuck D also heads a band named Confrontation Camp, a confrontational funk/rock band. In 2004, Flavor Flav appeared on the VH1 reality show The Surreal Life, and can now be seen on the VH1 program Strange Love. His portrayal on that show, however, has been the subject of much dispute, especially between fans and the other members of the band. Many fans and Chuck D himself have publicly lambasted Flavor for his actions on the show, including being indignant to his children and his ex-wife.


  • Chuck D
    • Real name: Carlton Ridenhour
    • Role: Group leader, lyricist, main vocalist, and artwork
    • Birthdate: August 1, 1960
  • Flavor Flav
    • Real name: William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.
    • Role: Lyricist, vocalist, hype-man, and comic relief.
    • Birthdate: March 16, 1959
  • Professor Griff
    • Real name: Richard Griffin
    • Role: Head of S1W, liaison between PE and S1W, road manager. Ensured that the chaotic Flavor Flav was available when needed. Occasional vocalist and/or producer, plays drums at live shows.
    • Birthdate: August 1, 1960 (the same as Chuck D)
  • Terminator X
    • Real name: Norman Rogers
    • Role: DJ, Producer
    • Birthdate: August 25, 1966

The following are a part of The Bomb Squad, the revolutionary production group which is closely associated with (sometimes considered a part of) Public Enemy:

The S1W's are sometimes considered a part of Public Enemy, as well.


  • Chuck D with Yusuf Jah, Fight the Power, Delacorte Press, 1997 ISBN 0385318685
  • Professor Griff, Atlanta Musick Bizness Resource Information Publication (R.I.P.), 2005



External links

de:Public Enemy es:Public Enemy sv:Public Enemy nl:Public Enemy


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