There are iconic groups and then there are iconic groups. Public Enemy fits in the last part. Chuck D and Flavor Flav and friends' first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show came out in 1987. In other words, almost four years ago Public Enemy helped change the game of rap.
Chuck D delivers lines like few before him with swagger, confidence, and clarity of thought. There is no gray to Chuck D's rhymes about African-American life. He doesn't simply rhyme, he brings truth.
Flavor Flav added the smirk to Public Enemy's anger, though. He wasn't Chuck D when it came to consistently enlightening someone, but "911 is a Joke" wouldn't be the same without Flav's style. All that said, here are three PE tracks to begin your Friday.
Three Public Enemy tracks to start your day
Public Enemy - "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" (1988)
This track is from the album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and has long been one of my favorite PE songs due to the frenetic energy and ridiculously good words. The opening salvo, "I got a letter from the government the other day/I opened and read it, it said they were suckers" is likely Public Enemy's most famous two lines, but the rest of the track is as gripping as an action film.
Public Enemy - "By the Time I Get to Arizona" (1991)
PE was not one to hold back in their political views, especially if they felt the people they were talking about were oppressed. This track was about former Arizona governor Evan Mechem repealing the state's recognition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Mechem said he wasn't being racist for doing so, but I mean...
As far as the song itself, the beat is immense and the production fantastic. Plus, Chuck D's rhymes are spot on and hit the target.
Public Enemy - "Harder Than You Think"
Late-era Public Enemy with Curtis Mayfield-type horns while Chuck D talks about PE being "the Rolling Stones of the rap game, not bragging"? Yes, please. Plus, the production buries Chuck's voice just a bit from Public Enemy's earlier work and it somehow works brilliantly.