In a thirty-year span, Public Enemy evolved into high-energy outfit that combined politically charged lyrics with high-charged beats. Instead of the glittery, commercialized oeuvre groomed for wider audiences, Public Enemy’s lyrics were set to the trajectory of race relations.
Ironically, the group grew a wider audience and maintained staying power with a slant toward the polemic. The group comes to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, November 28. Guests include Monie Love, X-Clan, Schoolly D, Leaders of the New School and others.
Formed in 1982 with members Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, and MCs, the Long Island released their first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show on Def Jam Records. Critics and hard core hip-hop heads approved of the album, but the effort failed to catch mainstream music lovers.
In their follow-up album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the mainstream got a dose of Flavor Flav’s physical antics and Chuck D’s baritone-rich lyrical tirades. The album spawned the hits “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Bring the Noise.” It Takes a Nation was a very distinct production as it contained excerpts from speeches made by controversial black activists such as Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. The album went on to sell more than a million copies.
Public Enemy’s infusion into pop culture got a boost in 1989, when director Spike Lee selected the group’s single “Fight the Power” to be on the soundtrack of Do the Right Thing. It was the living, breathing anthem of rebellious black youth jaded by the social implications of racism, economic status, and gentrification in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn neighborhood. Almost ten years later, they re-teamed with Lee to produce the entire soundtrack of He Got Game, staring Denzel Washington.
Controversy notwithstanding, Fear of a Black Planet received rave reviews in early 1990. Three tracks helped leverage the album into the pop Top Ten as the singles ”911 Is a Joke,” “Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man,” and “Brothers Gonna Work It Out,” became Top 40 R&B hits. In 1991, Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black earned overwhelmingly positive reviews. The album, a continuation of their call-to-action on social justice, was released in the fall and entered at number four on the pop charts. In the fall of 1992, Public Enemy released an underrated compilation of remixes called Greatest Misses.
Since then, Public Enemy has released nine more albums, including this year’s latest, The Evil Empire of Everything, and continued to spread their message. Over all these years, Chuck D has maintained the heart and soul of Public Enemy. Despite the group’s ups and downs, the fiery lead singer diversified Public Enemy’s sound by touring with rock groups such as Anthrax. Chuck D has taken the message, made it a mission, and speaks publicly on human rights issues.
For a chance to win two tickets to see Public Enemy as part of The Hip Hop Gods tour, name your favorite musician who has been outspoken for social causes.
The winner will be chosen at noon next Monday, November 26. Tickets are still available.