10 Inspiring Chuck D Quotes: The Power of Music as a Force for Change

Chuck D has been fighting the power since the mid-1980s with seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy. He is still going strong as a powerful voice in the music industry. Public Enemy recently dropped a surprise new album, Nothing is Quick in the Desert.

Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys said of Public Enemy, “No one has been able to approach the political power that Public Enemy brought to hip-hop. I put them on a level with Bob Marley and a handful of other artists – the rare artist who can make great music and also deliver a message.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees are described by hiphopdx.com as a group that, “immediately distanced themselves from the fray with dynamic songs about politics, the issues plaguing Black America and virtually every other societal ill under the sun,” and that after thirty years their new music is, “essentially everything you would expect from a Public Enemy album — ferocious, socially conscious lyrics. Chuck D proves his fiery raps have aged well over time. For someone set to kick 60’s door in, Chuck D has a visceral, youthful vigor.” The album title is a metaphor for the current state of the music industry.

Chuck D explained to Rolling Stone magazine, “It looks dead like a desert. But there’s plenty of life in the desert when one is educated on what they see and hear. It pays to be above average (or well below it) in the desert for survival. The music industry is similar in that analogy. It’s still in motion, it just needs redefinition.”

Chuck D, an early pioneer of cutting out middlemen and using the internet as a musician to fan distribution tool, is also a pivotal player in Prophets of Rage, the latest reincarnation of the legendary Rage Against the Machine, and has headlined the prestigious Glastonbury Music Festival solo.

Chuck D’s influential work is an inspiration for the powerful role that music can have in educating audiences, and communicating social messages, and calls for change. Here are 15 important Chuck D quotations.


“Today, important things that are said must also be heard – especially in the ‘desert,’ a place where a breath of fresh air is wished upon and water is prayed for.” —Chuck D


“You take the most hits, you get the most scar tissue. That’s cool. I got no regrets on that. We battled the mainstream, we battled our company, we fought every goddamn minute.” —Chuck D


“‘No, Columbus did not discover America, this is the real deal.’ So when we went back to school, we presented a problem. We just thought it was the truth.” —Chuck D


“I’ve always fought to change the system”. —Chuck D


“Life is life. Life is a fight, man. In the middle of the smoke, you fight to breathe.” —Chuck D


“You don’t travel the world as many times as I did and become a citizen. I’m a citizen of the planet; I’m an earth-izen.” —Chuck D


“In a time where gadgets are praised and people are worried that their cell phone screens are cracked, roboticism is at an all-time high and I’m not surprised at any of these areas of human drop-offs. We just have to work really hard on being able to hold up a mission of giving human beings back some logic, rationale and deductive reasoning that make them make great decisions for society, their surrounding communities and the world. When I fly to other places, I don’t see letters on the ground below. I see a beautiful planet – whether it be the United States or the Alps – and it has to be taken care of.” —Chuck D


“We’ll evolve and we’ll persevere. We’ll have the attitude of “This is what it is, so be it.” We’re not here to satisfy you. Public Enemy is here to accomplish its particular mission, its goal—like it or not. I don’t think that’s a snobby attitude, it’s just one that’s always written into the context of struggle. Artists’ struggle, black folks’ struggle. It could be a struggle for humankind, it could be struggle against the template of your own design.” —Chuck D


“Make your own decisions based on what you learn. It’s all right to say you don’t like something, it’s all right to say that you do like something, it’s even all right to change your opinion. Just know what you’re talking about. Know what you like and know what you don’t like, but don’t feel like you’re making a decision based on what you’re fed.” —Chuck D


“My only goals in rap music and hip-hop is how much service can I provide. I want to be part of an energy – I don’t want to be the spokesperson only for that agenda, I want to add something to it. I learn from the Bob to the Bob to the Bob, and that’s Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Bobby Womack.” —Chuck D


“We aim to be a voice for the voiceless, a voice that raises people’s consciousness. We are the “Camp Pain” against the campaign.” —Chuck D


“Class doesn’t cost a dime, and you spread it around. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding don’t come out of the microwave. You got to keep moving forward because the evil doesn’t sleep.” —Chuck D


“I adhere to the philosophy, “I don’t care who writes the laws, let me write the songs.” Our expressions in the arts are something that reflect life and propel us as human beings. Culture is this thing that we can exchange among ourselves as human beings to knock aside our differences and build upon our similarities. Cultural exchange is the ultimate exchange.”
—Chuck D


“If I have any fear, it’s not doing enough to reach people.” —Chuck D


“If I can’t change the people around me, I change the people around me.” —Chuck D

Author Bio: Tara Collum

Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the volunteer social media coordinator for the Death Row Support Project @COB_DRSP and co-writes a web serial at splitsvilleblog.wordpress.com. She is all about tea, books, mumblecore, music, long walks, and self-improvement. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun


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