Spike Lee set the scene for Public Enemy’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.”I was writing a movie. I had a character, Radio Raheem. He was playing a boombox, he was always playing the same thing.” He said that he needed an anthem for his film, he needed an anthem to express what black people were feeling.  “At this time, New York City was racially polarized, under Mayor Koch.” A burst of guitar feedback came from the stage and Lee joked, “That’s Koch.”

The song that Public Enemy frontman Chuck D gave to Lee was “Fight The Power,” and the film, of course, was Do The Right Thing.

He was then joined by Harry Belafonte, who called Public Enemy “radical, revolutionary change agents. They urged the world to fight the power. they never hestitated to use their own power to speak the truth and take on the forces of oppression that try to separate us. They are among the most influential artists in the world.”  He quoted their song “Don’t Believe The Hype,” during his speech, and said “I’m proud to call them my friends, and I’m glad to welcome these fearless and revolutionary artists into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.”

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“Pay attention, it’s the cheapest price you could pay,” Chuck D said, as he gave Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad the mic to say a few thank yous. Then Professor Griff  took the mic to thank the fans and families.  He said he was asked by an interviewer  what he would do differently, “And I said ‘not a damn thing.’ He then quoted Steve Biko, “Revolution is not an event, its a process.”

Flavor Flav went next, thanking Chuck D for writing the records with his brains. “It started the state of Arizona having a hoilday for Dr. MLK’s birthday,” he said, referring to Public Enemy’s song “By The Time I Get To Arizona,” which was written in response to the state’s decision in 1991 to stop recognizing the holiday. The state later reinstated the holiday two years after the song was released. “I don’t think there’s another rap group that ever put a national holiday on the map.”

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