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.