Who Wrote “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy?

In 2021, Rolling Stone released their updated 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, which saw “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy ranked No. 2 overall. However, if it weren’t for legendary movie director Spike Lee, the song would have never existed.

Videos by American Songwriter

In the late 1980s, Lee recruited the group’s frontmen, Chuck D and Flavor Flav, to craft the song for his 1989 movie Do the Right Thing. He would tell Time Magazine that he needed an anthem for his flick that revolved around racial tension for African Americans in New York, and knew NY-bred Public Enemy were the right men for the job. “I wanted it to be defiant, I wanted it to be angry, I wanted it to be very rhythmic. I thought right away of Public Enemy,” he said.

[RELATED: Behind the Band Name: Public Enemy]

Chuck D hatched the plan for “Fight The Power” on a flight to Italy, where they were beginning the tour for their sophomore album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Inspired by the Isley Brothers’ 1975 track of the same name, Chuck D hoped to instill a more timely approach. “I wanted to have sorta like the same theme as the original ‘Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers and fill it in with some kind of modernist views of what our surroundings were at that particular time,” he said.

The song and movie it accompanied both went on to be highly successful. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, Do the Right Thing accomplished what it set out to. “Fight The Power” would reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles at the time, and also No. 20 on their Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Public Enemy eventually used the track for their 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet.

The Writers of “Fight The Power”

Along with the aforementioned Chuck D and Flavor Flav, who put together the lyrics for the commanding song, Public Enemy’s producer group received most of the songwriting credits.

Our freedom of speech is freedom of death
We’ve got to fight the powers that be
Fight the power!
Fight the power!
Fight the power!
Fight the power!

Bomb Squad served as the group’s long-standing production team, primarily helping craft Public Enemy albums like the aforementioned It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) and Fear of a Black Planet (1990), as well as their debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), and Greatest Misses (1992).

[RELATED: Chuck D Sells Stake in Public Enemy Catalog]

Members Gary G-Wiz, Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, and Eric Sadler all contributed to the success of Bomb Squad, and all received writing credits on “Fight The Power.” Aside from their work with Public Enemy, Bomb Squad also helped put together instrumentation for albums by Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Run-D.M.C., and more.

Ultimately, the success of “Fight The Power” spoke volumes about the strength of unity. Utilizing their beloved production team and hoping to bring together an entire generation of African Americans motivated for change, the song still resonates with audiences today, whether it is consumed through the movie it was made for, or through good ole fashioned headphones.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Busta Rhymes Hops on Remix of Coi Leray’s Hit “Players”