The Isley Brothers found chart success in the mid-’70s by speaking to the perseverance of Black activism against White supremacy on “Fight the Power, Parts 1 and 2.” The song touched Carlton Ridenhour, a Black teenager looking for direction while growing up in New York.
“It signified a time that was kind of, like, confusing to a 15-year-old,” Ridenhour, best known as Chuck D of Public Enemy, tells The Isley Brothers songwriter Ernie Isley. “The average 15-year-old is asking all kinds of questions anyways, and that spoke to me: ‘Fight the Power.’”
Both artists discuss The Isley Brothers’ song and how it influenced Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” for NPR’s “American Anthem,” a series about songs that challenge the idea of American identity. Chuck D explains how the 1975 hit informed his 1989 song on the state of Black America in the midst of the War on Drugs, and they talk about how their songs were used in different eras of Black resistance. Listen in on their conversation via NPR.org.