Chuck D, founder of the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, staged his own version of a reality show at Union Thursday night, holding court on the political, social and cultural issues of the day.
The hip-hop icon spared few in his talk, titled “Race, Rap, Reality and Technology,'' in the Nott Memorial. He skewered President Bush, the media and the country's obsession with all things celebrity, which he blamed for the intellectual vacuum that is prevalent in conversations today.
“There's a new drug in America,'' said the rapper, who was born Carlton Douglas Ridehour in Long Island. “It's called celebrity. Every time I leave Hollywood, I've got to go to IQ rehab.''
He poked fun at his former partner in Public Enemy, Flavor Flav, for his reality show on VH1 and, noting that his appearance was held as part of Black History Month at the College, he said: “They should call it Black Misery Month. It's the shortest damn month and definitely the coldest.''
Chuck D. also had some serious words for the audience of more than 200 people, urging them to take responsibility for their actions and to embrace the opportunities in front of them, particularly at college. Chuck D. attended Adelphi University.
“Graduating from college in 1984, now that's my greatest accomplishment,'' said the rapper, whose group in 1988 released “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever. The record helped introduce rap to white, alternative rock audiences.
“I look back 22 years ago and say, ‘That's a damn good day.'''
Hours after the Rev. Peter Gomes praised the ornate beauty of the Nott during his Founders Day speech, Chuck D. also noted how lucky the campus community is to be in the presence of the building.
“Is this a college or a university?” he asked, marveling at the 16-sided beauty as he took to the podium for the start of his two-hour talk. “It feels like a university. This building is absolutely gorgeous.''
Chuck D continues to be active politically, testifying before Congress on race relations and hosting a show on Air America Radio, On the Real.
His talk Thursday was sponsored by the Union College Speakers Forum.