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Public Enemy’s Chuck D celebrates Black History Month with ‘Songs That Shook the Planet’

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Public Enemy leader Chuck D is paying tribute to Black History Month with his new Audible series, Songs That Shook the Planet, spotlighting iconic songs by legendary Black artists.

His list includes Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 song, “What’s Going On”; “People Get Ready,” composed by Curtis Mayfield and recorded by The Impressions in 1965; and Billie Holiday’s 1939 classic, “Strange Fruit.”

“If you’ve lived a long life, you have a long list,” Chuck D tells Variety. “I always try to avoid the obvious and do a little bit more digging to come up with something different, that people might have heard less than the usual suspects.”

The “Fight The Power” rapper says “What’s Going On” was a key song in the civil rights movement.

“It was recorded in 1970, which followed probably one of the most turbulent periods of change in our time, and came out in ’71, three years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated,” Chuck says. “And also coming from Motown [Records], which changed and revolutionized young America culturally.”

The six-time Grammy nominee is also hosting the PBS/BBC four-part docuseries The Story of Hip-Hop with Chuck D, and developing a career in art, as well as recording a new solo album.

“I’m trying to jump-start another realm of hip-hop performances, and that’s rocking the museums and exhibit halls,” he says. “That’s probably what I’ll name the next album, Chuck D and the Near Def Experience, which will give me the ability to rock music, a lecture and the walls with artwork in the same night. That’s what Chuck D and the Near Def Experience is all about.”

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