Carlton "Chuck D" Ridenhour
One of the most commanding voices in hip-hop, Chuck D was the frontman for the politically charged rap group Public Enemy, which drew acclaim and controversy in the late 1980s and early 1990s for their fiery social rhetoric on songs like "Don't Believe the Hype," "Fight the Power" and "By the Time I Get to Arizona. " Chuck's stentorian voice brought force and conviction to the group's intense sonic palette and politically charged lyrics; with sidekick Flavor Flav providing offbeat, occasionally sardonic counterpoint, he helped to make Public Enemy not only one of the most successful hip-hop acts of the decade, but also spurred other acts to pursue more serious subjects in their music, including the Roots, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah and A Tribe Called Quest, as well as countless rock and alternative bands. Public Enemy's momentum ran out in the mid-1990s, but Chuck kept the group alive through a variety of small label releases, while cultivating a second career as an author, lecturer and media commentator. His best work with Public Enemy preserved his status as a pioneer in socially conscious popular music.