411 Music Hall Of Fame Class Of 2008: Public Enemy
PUBLIC ENEMY’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
• Three platinum and four gold albums.
• Their album Fear Of A Black Planet was chosen by the Library Of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry.
• First hip hop band to embark on a world tour.
• Inducted into the Long Island Music Hall Of Fame
• Pioneers of hardcore and socially conscious hip hop.
If there is one band in the history of music that had more to say about the climate of their surroundings, I’d like you to show them to me. One part rebellion and many parts revolution, Public Enemy has turned a world upside down. With an in your face political stance on what was wrong with a country and the entire human race, Pubic Enemy has turned the world upside down. By breaking through to the mainstream to get their message across, Public Enemy most definitely has turned the world upside down.
In the mid 1980’s, a little group called Spectrum City wasn’t very well known. It was Chuck D and Flavor Flav putting out the album Check Out The Radio with the main single “Lies” that started it all. It was a social commentary that garnered the duo some attention from their peers in New York. Producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin heard Chuck D’s freestyles on a demo and was hooked. He and former WBAU program director, Bill Stephney went on the mission to sign Chuck D to this little upstart label called Def Jam. Chuck got on the label and brought on his friends Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler (also known as “The Bomb Squad”) to handle the production. Then with the additions of Professor Griff, a DJ named Terminator X and Flavor Flav the group as we know it called Public Enemy was born.
One year later the debut Yo! Bum Rush The Show was put out. While the album had some critical acclaim, it would take the 1988 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back to really start to impact the charts and kick start the revolution. Mainly due to the singles “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Black Steel in the House of Chaos” the seeds were planted. It was even named the Village Voice Album of the Year, which is mainly chosen by rock critics. Despite the amount of accolades they were receiving, their mark was still being made.
In 1990, one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time was released. That would unquestionably be Fear of a Black Planet. On this album they unleashed their views on the police department not making it to urban communities as fast as a suburban homes with “911 (is a Joke)”. Still, even though that’s a milestone song, it would be overshadowed by the anthem of a disenfranchised community with “Fight the Power”. I remember I first heard this song while watching Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. Other than my friend’s parents making us leave the room during the sexual stuff, this song stands out to me the most. Granted I was a little white kid in an all black area, but I still felt empowered. While I won’t claim to know the pain, I saw much of it during my youth. The lyrics everyone talks about when it comes to “Fight the Power” go “Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me/Straight-up racist that sucker was simple and plain/Muthafuck him and John Wayne”. With the rise to the mainstream with this album, the controversy and militant nature was now in the face of suburban America. The truth was now only a radio dial away.
Not to slow down or anything, their next release was Apocalypse ’91… The Enemy Strikes Back. It continued their rebellious and militant ways with tracks like “Can’t Truss It”, “I Don’t Wanna Be Called Yo Nigga”, and “By the Time I Get To Arizona”. “By the Time I Get To Arizona” was a hard edged track about the state of Arizona and other states who did not recognize MLK day. The video hit MTV and more eyes were being placed upon the truth. To me, that is what Public Enemy represented more than any race, belief system, or anything else. Public Enemy rose to the public eye by standing up strong, firm, and proud and not just telling the world the truth, but screaming it in our unknowing faces.
Public Enemy wasn’t just a hip hop group that was sticking to one thing. They branched out and experimented. If they weren’t sampling Slayer or getting Living Colour to contribute guitar licks they were revolutionizing the music world with the first ever “rap metal” collaboration. I’m sure if you’re this far into this, you know of “Bring tha Noize” where PE teamed up with thrash metal icons Anthrax. If you’ve not heard this, you must have spent the last twenty years with your fingers in your ears. It’s not only innovative, experimental, and ground breaking; it is timeless and as relevant today as it was in 1991.
Today, they continue to release music for the masses with four albums in the 2000’s. That is, when Chuck D isn’t taking over the world and Flavor Flav isn’t becoming a pop culture icon.
Why Public Enemy Was Selected:
Outside of the Public Enemy history lesson, you can see their influence in many other performers to come after them. Hip Hop artists like KRS One, Nas, Ice –T, and others followed suit and spoke up against the establishment while their “peers” would be rapping about bitches, hoes, bling, and the gangsta life style. Even in rock music, you can see their politically charged influences in bands like Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails, and others. Terminator X’s innovative scratch work from “Rebel Without a Pause” is something you hear every day on the radio. They didn’t need a gym shoe to sing about, poofy pants, or anything else. They were the first to take hip hop on a world tour, first to release mp3 albums, and first to really enter the mainstream as real people and not just lame gimmicks.
As if their legacy and influence wasn’t already established, they continue to release music. It’s good to know they still have a voice. It’s a voice that won’t be silenced for many generations to come.