Chuck D believes Public Enemy got a tougher time from law enforcement than any other artist. The politically focused hip-hop group rose to fame in the late 1980s alongside gangsta rap originators N.W.A, who were also periodically in conflict with law enforcement due to their own uncompromising lyrics tackling police brutality and racism.
However, in a fan-led interview with The Guardian, Chuck D said his group faced the worst of the government backlash to music that was critical of American society.
“I don’t know about intimidation, but, yeah, probably more than anybody in music,” he said when asked how much “police harassment and FBI intimidation” Public Enemy received.
The “Fight the Power” legend went on to say he’s not bitter about his treatment as it helped fuel his creativity.
“It’s nothing to be annoyed by,” the 62-year-old added. “It’s what it is. The most I could do was to make songs about it. On Public Enemy’s first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, we said the governments are responsible. Governments plural because governments like to split up human beings, but music likes to unite people.”
Despite Public Enemy’s success, hip-hop acts have generally taken a less political path since their heyday, a shift he sees as down to the nature of the music industry.
“The revolution can’t be sold,” he added. “It can’t be marketed the way other music is marketed; it has to be given to the people. We had the blessing of right age, right place, right time.”