Public Enemy


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Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987), 7/10
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988), 8/10
Fear of a Black Planet (1990), 7/10
Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), 6/10
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (1994), 6.5/10
He Got Game (1998), 5.5/10
There's a Poison Goin' On (1999), 5/10
Chuck D: The Autobiography of Mistachuck (1996), 5.5/10
Rebirth of a Nation (2005), 4/10
New Whirl Odor (2005), 5/10
How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People (2007), 5/10
Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (2012), 4/10
The Evil Empire of Everything (2012), 4/10
Man Plans God Laughs (2015), 4.5/10
Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (2017), 4/10
What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? (2020), 3/10
Loud Is Not Enough (2020), 4/10
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Summary.
The "message" of rap became even more relevant with Public Enemy, whose agit-prop hip-hop music was an explicit call to arms in the face of urban violence. Sandwiched between the galvanizing but naive Yo Bum Rush The Show (1987) and the mature and self-indulgent Fear Of A Black Planet (1990), their masterpiece (and hip-hop's masterpiece) It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988) was a collection of powerful sermons, reminiscent of the MC5. Norman "Terminator X" Rogers pushed the sonic montage of hip-hop towards new delirious and violent excesses.
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I Public Enemy inaugurano il filone politico dell'hip hop inneggiando alla violenza urbana. Scortati da una sorta di polizia privata, danno luogo a disordini che ricordano quelli del Movement Rock di vent'anni prima. I rapper Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour) e Flavor Flav (William Drayton) si qualificano come i moderni portavoce dell'inquietudine nera, non piu` ispirata dai Black Panther bensi` dagli antisemiti Black Muslims di Louis Farrakhan (l'equivalente nero del Ku Klux Klan bianco). Il primo album, Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987), con Vernon Reid alla chitarra, fu un'opera di sfondamento. Lo stile era gia` denso e intenso, piu` vicino all'hard-rock che al party-rap di quegli anni You're Gonna Get Yours, Miuzi Weighs a Ton, Public Enemy No. 1)

It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988) e` gia` un classico, un travolgente e sofisticato campionario di musica rivoluzionaria. I rapper incalzano drammatici e parossistici in un coacervo di rumori rap, bandismi casual, improvvisazioni di scratch (Terminator X, alias Norman Rogers, il mago dell scratch) e disturbi elettronici. I generi tradizionali vengono massacrati dal processo di mimesi. Il funk a ritmo cingolato di Louder Than A Bomb, l'anthem travolgente Rebel Without A Pause, l'heavy-metal scatenato di Channel Zero, l'ipnosi orientale di Shaw 'Em Whatcha Got, le cacofonie dadaiste di Terminator X, la sarabanda funky-tropicale di Bring The Noise, il minimalismo dissonante di Black Steel, sono straniati da arrangiamenti demenziali che ne esaltano le qualita` tribali. Il vero protagonista di quest'arte di mosaico e` il produttore e arrangiatore Hank Shocklee (il leader della "Bomb Squad" a cui e` accreditata la produzione): e` lui a costruire con metodo certosino i brani che i testi di Ridenhour trasformano poi in canti di guerra. Drayton e` il suo contraltare giullaresco, e l'alternanza di toni dei due costituisce in se una novita` importante.

I loro sermoni polemici esaltano gli aspetti piu` terrorizzanti della vita metropolitana e nei casi migliori l'accumulo di eventi sonori incoerenti crea atmosfere inquietanti, da film noir, che danno l'esatta dimensione delle nevrosi latenti della fauna sotto-proletaria. Potrebbero essere i Country Joe degli slum neri, cantastorie sarcastici dei mali del loro tempo, ma, restando fedeli alla tradizione di Sly Stone e George Clinton, secondo cui per far muovere il cervello di un nero bisogna prima far muovere le sue gambe, preferiscono trasformare i loro comizi in esilaranti balli da fiera, o, meglio, in piccole sinfonie di gag sonore.

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

After Fight The Power (1989), the theme song of a movie, and Welcome To The Terrordome (1990), their first single, Public Enemy returned with Fear of a Black Planet (1990), containing the hits 911 Is a Joke, Brothers Gonna Work It Out, and Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man, besides Burn Hollywood Burn; and the relatively uneventful Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black (1991), produced by the Imperial Grand Ministers of Funk, that simply recycles the same old ideas for a white audience (By The Time I Get To Arizona, Nighttrain, Shut Em Down).

Terminator X released two solo albums: The Valley of the Jeep Beets (1991) and Super Bad (1994).

Chuck D released The Autobiography of Mistachuck (1996).

In the meantime, the saga of Public Enemy continued with the much sonically improved Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (1994), which was ignored because one of the worst music magazines in the USA criticized it, but was actually one of their most musical efforts, with powerful and engaging tracks such as What Kind Of Power We Got, What Side You On, Hitler Day, Bedlam 13:13.

He Got Game (1998) was limited by its original conception as a movie soundtrack; and There's a Poison Goin' On (1999) was released over the Internet.

Rebirth of a Nation (Guerrilla Funk, 2005) is a terrible parody of the old Public Enemy sound.

New Whirl Odor (2005) is a bit better, but the sound is just not what it used to be.

Power To The People And The Beats (Def Jam, 2005) is a career retrospective. Beats And Places (2007) collects unreleased tracks.

How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? (Slam Jamz, 2007), produced by Bomb Squad's G-Wiz, is not only an attempt to regain the political charisma of the early days but also an implicit self-referential tribute, as the crew quotes its own instrumental and lyrical past.

Public Enemy released two LPs in 2012, which was clearly a bad idea. Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (2012), rich in live instrumentation but also poor in beats creativity, contains WTF, and The Evil Empire of Everything (2012), a longer album that contains even less interesting material. Planet Earth - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Greatest Rap Hits (2013) contains re-recordings of some of their old songs and some new material (leftovers?)

Public Enemy returned with Man Plans God Laughs (2015), a rather tedious experience past the catchy No Sympathy From the Devil and the almost funk-rock pulse of Man Plans God Laughs. A cool sample from the Rolling Stones in Honky Talk Rules wakes up those who fell asleep in the previous songs, but the sleep can safely resume after it.

Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (2017) contains Terrorwrist. What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? (2020), produced by David "C-Doc" Snyder, contains re-recorded old songs with old glories like George Clinton, Cypress Hill, Run-DMC and Stetsasonic, plus songs recycled from Nothing Is Quick in the Desert and the single State of the Union (with a beat by DJ Premier). Loud Is Not Enough (2020), also produced by C-Doc, was credited to Enemy Radio because Flavor Flav didn't appear.

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Professor Griff (Richard Griffin)