Chuck D is the beating heart of Public Enemy, one of the foundational stones of hip hop’s golden age. D has been an ever-present in rap for over 30 years, but when he was growing up, there was no hip hop for him to devour — instead, he had to look elsewhere to get his kicks and, more often than not, ‘elsewhere’ meant searching the rock radios to find his favourite albums.
Since forming in 1985, Public Enemy have been at the forefront of leading the hip-hop revolution. However, there were no bands like his for him to look towards when he was a kid, and it was guitar music that Chuck D gravitated to in his early years.
Like most people his age, regardless of demographic, Chuck D fell in love with The Beatles, and they were his first introduction to music. They were a kaleidoscopic influence on his childhood, and even today, the Public Enemy founder holds unbreakable feelings towards the Fab Four.
While there isn’t much that aligns with The Beatles and Public Enemy on the surface, they both riled against the status quo, even if they went about it in different ways.
Admittedly, Public Enemy were more anarchic and overtly political than The Beatles, but they were both trailblazers. However, it wasn’t the Fab Four’s hellraising nature that appealed to Chuck, instead, he was attracted to the simplicity of their beautiful songwriting.
The rapper even said their album Revolver changed his life and remembered how devastated he was when he discovered they’d broken up in 1970. “‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is kind of like the beginning of noise rock to me. To me, The Beatles are unbelievable. I grew up on them,” Chuck revealed. “One of the first records I remember is ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ by The Beatles. Here you’re a little boy and you’re singing, ‘I want to hold your hand [sings].'”
He continued: “I was about four years old when The Beatles came out. It was solid. It was easy to sing. When they ‘broke up’ in 1970, I used to listen to the radio and their records would play forever on pop stations. My favourite one is ‘Let It Be.’ I have come to the age where I further understand them. I never noticed direction, I just knew they were incredible.”
From Chuck’s musical output, you’d never guess The Beatles played such a significant part in shaping his tastes, but that’s a credit to the work of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, who transcended genres. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a rapper, R&B singer, or DJ; the Fab Four can always act as a source of inspiration.