2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Induction Speeches for Public Enemy
Hello, My name is Spike Lee. I’m from Brooklyn, New York – Is Brooklyn in the house? Great to be here tonight, for this honor – a lot of love here; a lot of history. That’s what makes America great – our music. I had a dilemma – I was writing this film, and this character, Ray Rahiem carried a boom box, and every time he showed up in the script this song was playing. I didn’t know who I was going to get at first. (hee hee – What’s Up, Flav?) I played this character called Mookie, and it takes place on the hottest day of the summer in Bed-Stuy-Do-or-Die: A film about love, a film about hate. And…I called Chuck up, said “Chuck, I need an Anthem”. ‘Cause we knew the song was coming out in the summer of 1989, and in the summertime there’s always one song in New York that if it’s a hit, you can hear it everywhere – on the subway, cars, in front of people’s houses. I wanted this song to be an anthem that could express what young black Americans are feeling at this time. At this time, New York City, under Mayor Ed Koch was racially polarized, and I wanted this song to be in the film. I called Chuck up, and the first song, wasn’t it. I said, “Chuck, you gotta come back. You gotta go back into the woodshed. We came back with an anthem – Fight the Power. Fight the Power. Fight the Powers that be. And…that song made the film what it is. Thank You. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. So, I’m happy to be here, and also I’m going to bring out one of the great legends who is going to cosign what I’m saying- My main man, Harry Belafonte!
Thank You. Radical. Revolutionary. Change Agents. These are terms that are sometimes used loosely, and don’t always evoke admiration. In 1986 these young men came together to radically change absolutely everything about an emerging urban musical force called rap.
Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, joined by DJ Lord, soon became household names. When they urged the world to Fight the Power, they were never afraid to use their personal power to speak truth; to shine a spotlight on troubling issues and inspire others to take on the forces of oppression that separate us and try to suffocate progressive and radical thought. They have become some of the most influential artists in the world. A legacy handed down to these courageous men by Paul Robeson, is carried forward by these extraordinary artists, who for more than twenty-five years, in the tough and sometimes heartless business of music, provide inspiration to writers, musicians, poets, filmmakers, but perhaps most importantly, ordinary citizens tackling the seemingly intractable problems of our day. America has the largest prison population in the world. The vast majority of this population are young and people of color. The Lock-Up Posse has ensnared our children in their classroom, in their streets, and in their homes. This abuse and relentless assault has dimmed our humanity. The President of the United States has great respect for Art and artists. We need the power of his heart, and the authority of his pen, to correct these hideous abuses of jurisprudence and address the inequities of this war on our children. In their musical offering It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back Public Enemy wrote: “The minute they see me/Fear me/ I’m the epitome of a public enemy/Used, abused, without clues, I refuse to blow a fuse/They even had it on the news/Don’t believe the hype.” Artists like Public Enemy are the Gatekeepers of Truth - Civilization’s radical voice. They’ve also demonstrated the courage to rise above the hype of celebrity. I’m proud to be a mentor and to call them my friends. I’m deeply honored to induct these radical, revolutionary, and fearless artists into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame! Ladies and Gentlemen – Public Enemy!