photo & text by nacrowe
PUBLIC ENEMY is the ultimate HIP HOP group in my opinion. the only group that comes close is probably the WU-TANG CLAN. what makes them so innovative and revolutionary is the extent to which they are a self-drive, self-determining, self-contained unit.
at the core is the towering figure of CHUCK D, arguably the most polemical figure in HIP HOP history. i almost see him outside of the context of music and in the vein of great political writers like THOMAS PAINE, JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU, FREDERICK DOUGLASS, THOMAS JEFFERSON, HENRY DAVID THOREAU, BERTRAND RUSSELL, JOHN LOCKE, or ABRAHAM LINCOLN. he is the very blueprint for all conscious HIP HOP that followed including Q-TIP, TALIB KWELI, ICE CUBE, BLACK THOUGHT, COMMON and so forth. his gift is his ability to both methodically and viscerally convey an effective unadulterated viewpoint concerning the BLACK EXPERIENCE in AMERICA. the dude holds no punches on tracks like "911 IS A JOKE," "ANTI-NIGGER MACHINE," "WELCOME TO THE TERRORDOME" and most famously "FIGHT THE POWER" off their epochal release FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET (DEF JAM, 1990). the man is righteous and has done immeasurable good in galvanizing his fans to think for themselves and question the authority of AMERICAN political, cultural, economic and policing systems that are innately corrupt. he also has helped educate WHITE, suburban kids like myself without watering down the message. in my eyes he is a leader and a prophet, as the vision of AMERICA painted here feels more alive now than ever before 30 years after the release of FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET.
part of the reason CHUCK D is so effective is the in-house production team THE BOMB SQUAD, which created a sonic palette of jaggedly juxtaposed samples, synths and beats that dont careen and soothe, but rather rip and slash their way through your senses. its an abrasive and infectious sonic aesthetic that synchronized with the political intent of the lyrical content perfectly. years later RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE would appear and take this sense of dynamics and translate it into a ROCK context to similarly great affect to antagonize and uplift listeners with a matching SOCIAL JUSTICE lyrical bent. the importance of THE BOMB SQUAD cannot be understated in the effectiveness of PUBLIC ENEMY's cultural standing. they effective laid the aural groundwork for CHUCK D to push his audience to new levels of consciousness.
which brings me to FLAVOR FLAV. since PUBLIC ENEMY is so intense and so politcally charged, it would be very easy for them to come off as joyless nad stubbornly monotonous in tone. what FLAV brought to the table was a sense of comic relief without diluting the intent and message itself. it is a fine line he walks as some have even singled him out as an example of modern-day minstrelsy. i disagree categorically. his gift to the group is a sense of emotional levity, allowing for their to be a moment of contrast before the listener dives right back into the thick of causticly righteous rhymes about society's ills and the corporate structures that serve to undermine us as individuals. without him, the message would not be as effective. he is not a distraction in this sense, he is the glue that keeps the music engaging and effective in its ability to jolt us from our waking sleep.
FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET is an iconic record by an iconic group that hasnt aged or become irrelevant in the least. in fact it is a testament and a siren to today's ascending technocratic hellscape run by corporate structures that aid and abet WHITE NATIONALIST agendas. dont believe me? watch the news.
welcome to the terrordome, indeed.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
thank god for AMEOBA RECORDS.
no doubt this series was meant as a way to garner interest in the sheer sea of available for purchase records, tapes, cds, dvds, posters, books, zines and various merchandise at their flagship stores in HOLLYWOOD, SAN FRANCISCO and BERKELEY, but man is it still cool to see what cultural artifacts jazz up influential musicians.
i only went to AMEOBA in HOLLYWOOD once when visiting a childhood friend of mine in nearby ORANGE COUNTY (where i grew up pre-NIGERIA). AMEOBA for me was like visiting MECCA. it was a sacred place, they literally had everything. i remember i got an out-print (at the time) copy of PRINCE's SIGN 'O' THE TIMES (PAISLEY PARK FILMS, 1987) concert film for cheap. really too bad the place closed doors so some asshole could put up some condominiums. just what the world needs. regardless, id put AMEOBA up there with the greatest stores ive ever walked into, which come to think of it, the only one that comes close at the top of my head is the FNAC CHAMPS ELYSEE in PARIS.
anyway, its always cool to hear musicians talk about music, so below are the episodes with SUNN O))), GARBAGE, THE MELVINS, WAYNE KRAMER, DELTRON 3030 (DAN THE AUTOMATOR & DEL THE FUNKY HOMOSAPIEN), JOHNNY MARR, MASTODON, CHUCK D, BILLY BRAGG and HIGH ON FIRE among many many other notable musicians, past and present.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
im surprised it took someone this long to come up with a talk show/podcast like PEOPLE'S PARTY that used the insights and talents of a renowned and respected voice like TALIB KWELI to shine a light on issues important to his community and the intersection of black culture within music, politics and sports. seems this is long overdue because whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we all are living in a world influenced and continually reinventing (remixing?) itself in the mold of HIP HOP.
KWELI is especially adept as an interviewer and proves himself an engaged student of his guests, which i find entirely refreshing. its not so much about gleaning out information, but rather understanding the context and perspective from which they emanate. with regards to HIP HOP there seems to be a prevailing notion that OLD HEADS (of which KWELI is a member) aren't interested in the current state of the form, instead relying on "back in my day" bullshit arguments. the interviews i've seen with such past luminaries as CHUCK D, ICE CUBE, BUN B, RZA and B REAL (embedded below) among others showcase a class of MCs fully engaged in the now, keenly aware of the shifts in the culture and are still actively engaged in nurturing new talent and promoting the continuation of the genre. its a wonderful thing and a show like this breaks the narrative of what passes as cultural commentary on the genre from white music magazines and blogs or national media which only focuses on sensationalism or tragedy.
in the age of TRUMP, im also glad that KWELI and his guests get political. seems off-brand these days to be politically controversial for rappers. gross consumerism and thoughtless sexism is encouraged, but criticizing our moron in chief isn't high on the agenda as it may split your white audience. at a time that we need the youth engaged in politics (black, white, whatever), it is nice to see someone using their pulpit to relay a message of hope that as a community we can defeat this assface clown.
definitely check out his UPROXX-produced podcast on YouTube and whatever streaming platform you use to access your audio podcasts.
parody by nacrowe
in honor of their forthcoming reunion, please check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO on legendary HIP HOP/ALTERNATIVE band RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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