“I always wanted independent radio to trump robot radio,” said hip-hop legend Carlton Douglas Ridenhour – a.k.a Chuck D.
Yesterday, this dream came closer to reality, as the deep voice of the Public Enemy frontman was broadcasted over the airwaves in a surprise appearance at KCSB’s recording studio. Public Enemy, formed in 1982, pioneered politic-based rap during a time when the genre largely ignored such issues. The artist, whose girlfriend is a UCSB professor, has long been acquainted with KCSB and has extended radio station favors from time to time.
KCSB General Manager Josh Redman, a fourth-year sociology major, said Chuck D stopped in on short notice to assist the independent station’s 10-day fundraising drive.
“It was kind of last minute,” Redman said. “He just came in today to help pitch.”
On campus, Chuck D bantered about the musical and societal parallels between jazz and hip hop on KCSB’s Jazz Straight Ahead program.
He then elaborated on the historical connections between various other bands, genres of music and spans of time and culture, calling music a “common denominator.”
“Music is the universal language that everyone understands, right?” Chuck D said.
The artist also stressed the importance of underground radio, as it was his foundation before his career in hip hop took off.
Ned Von Bundle, a third-year anthropology major, said this experience was unique to KCSB.
“You can’t hear this on corporate radio,” Von Bundle said.
Chuck D remained seated calmly on the couch, nodding his head to the beat of the music, behind the microphone in a white Jets hat, eventually segueing into the next broadcasted program, “What’s Good.”
Ridenhour also presented the radio station with several copies of his book, Chuck D: Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary along with 10 autographed copies of Public Enemy’s new CD, How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? as part of his contribution to the fundraiser.
Black Studies professor Gaye Theresa Johnson joined her celebrity boyfriend on the couch during the interview. She said Ridenhour is passionate about lending a hand to underground media.
“He’s a very serious supporter of independent radio as well as college radio,” Johnson said. “It’s a medium people are underestimating with regard to change in today’s society.”
KCSB Chief Engineer Bryan Brown said the station began playing alternative music from artists prior to their mainstream integration into society, including Public Enemy in the 1980s, and intends on continuing the tradition.
“We were playing hip hop before it was commercially known,” Brown said. “That’s what we play and what we continue to play.”
Indeed, according to Brown, Ridenhour is not the only hip-hop icon to recognize the station for playing music before it was popular. He said KCSB was given a copy of Naughty By Nature’s gold record for their 1991 hit “O.P.P” in honor of the station’s support before the group succeeded.
Chuck D, who has previously spoken at I.V. Theater and the MultiCultural Center, said he has stopped in the station in the past and made friendly acquaintances with the staff and engineers.
“It was almost like taking a step back in time,” Chuck D said. “It was a great experience.”