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Nassau legislator seeking to rename county street 'Public Enemy Turnpike'

Move underway to recognize hip hop group's Long Island roots.

Rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public

Rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy perform at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas. Photo Credit: Getty Images for Samsung/Rick Kern

Will Long Islanders soon be cruising on Public Enemy Turnpike? Nassau County Minority Leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) has filed legislation to rename a portion of the county’s Babylon Turnpike in honor of the popular Roosevelt hip-hop group.

“Public Enemy has long roots in the Roosevelt community. They’ve worked for decades to address many of the concerns here and the street renaming goes a long way toward recognizing their efforts not just in the music industry but more importantly in the Long Island community,” Abrahams said.

Debuting in 1987, Public Enemy — rappers Chuck D. and Flavor Flav, DJ Terminator X and Minister of Information Professor Griff — influenced hip-hop’s sound for generations, pioneering sampling and production, and playing a major role in the creation of rap-metal. They introduced political protest into hip-hop with mega-hits including the 1989 anthem, “Fight the Power.”

“Roosevelt is in my physicality — it’s in my mind and my soul. As Memphis is to Stax, Roosevelt is to Public Enemy,” Chuck D. told Newsday in 2013, when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its first year of eligibility. A representative for the rapper did not respond to a request for comment on the street renaming, which is slated for the portion of the road from the Freeport border of Carroll Street to Cumberland Avenue in Roosevelt.

Tom Needham, vice chairman of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, says the groundbreaking hip-hop group is deserving of the honor.

“Public Enemy is in a rare class of artists,” he says. “They are one of the few Long Island artists who have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They’re unique. They’re in the same league as artists like The Clash, or Springsteen, or Dylan in terms of their lyrics and their music. They’re originators and leaders and they’re consistently good. They’re so important in terms of musical history. They are remarkable.”

Needham says that the group, especially leader Chuck D, of Roosevelt, has been very supportive of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and getting recognition for artists from the area.

“Long Island is meaningful to him,” Needham says. “And I think an honor like this raises awareness of what the group has accomplished. When people hear that something has been named after someone, people equate that with importance. It’s very exciting.”

Abrahams said the issue could be taken up in committee sometime in March.

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