In the late 1980s, Public Enemy connected the dots between politics, soul music, hard rock, marketing, turntablism, and rhyme, and turned hip-hop into an urban global youth movement. PE's pioneering albums are heralded as avant-garde artworks whose disparate sample sources combine into a gloriously chaotic mosaic of polyphony and African-American unrest. Powered by Chuck D.'s political fury, enlivened by Flavor Flav's antics, and made controversial by Professor Griff's ethnocentrism, Public Enemy influenced virtually every rapper who followed in their wake.
PE''s third album is dense, heavy, and urgent as a bullet. Fear of a Black Planet single-handedly added half a dozen phrases to the language, and not just from Chuck D.''s troop-rallying bellow--Flavor Flav''s "911 Is a Joke" is as catchy an indictment of urban policy as anyone has ever come up with. The Bomb Squad''s music is complicated, challenging, terse, and totally funky, and Chuck matches it with one impassioned pronouncement after another: on Hollywood''s racism, on miscegenation, on "real history / Not his story." The album ends with "Fight the Power," the group''s ultimate statement of purpose, from its pounding, atonal sound collage to its furious politics. Put Black Planet on, and it''s always a long, hot summer. --Douglas Wolk
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