Public Enemy: an example of courage, political engagement and strong determination to fight the power

Old school rappers Public Enemy are merely the symbol of a political engagement against the government and a corporate America.
Public Enemy’s revolutionary and explosive lyrics have opened people’s eyes about racial discrimination and injustice in America.
Determined to fight racism and offering their audiences some powerful videos, nobody else in the black community has been more determined to fight the power.

Public Enemy: an impressing career

Public Enemy was founded in 1982 in Long Island, New York.
Chuck D’s freestyle impressed producer Rick Rubin, who is one of the founders of the Def Jam label along with Russell Simmons. That’s how Chuck D got signed on Def Jam.
Public Enemy’s debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show was released in 1987.
Their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, came out in 1988, followed by Fear Of A Black Planet in 1990, which was a major success.
The singles « 911 Is A Joke » and « Fight The Power » got deep into the subject of racial discrimination for people to realize the difference of treament between the black and white community in America.

In 1991, Public Enemy released another offensive and powerful CD: « Apocalypse ‘91. The Enemy Strikes Back ». It was ranked in Spin Magazine’s 20 best albums and the Rolling Stone magazine gave it four stars.
It was followed by Greatest Misses in 1992. Public Enemy’s next album, Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age, came out in 1994.
Four years later, Public Enemy released « He Got Game » which was followed by an online released album, Bring The Noise 2000 in 1999.
At this time, the group decided to leave the Def Jam label.
The same year, There’s a Poison Goin On was released.
In 2002, Public Enemy came up with the Revolverlution album.

There’s a Poison Goin On was re-released recently in 2004.
Public Enemy are currently working on a new album, Rebirth Of A Nation, that is due to release for August 2005

Group members

Chuck D

Carlton Ridenhour aka Chuck D is Public Enemy’s group leader. He is known for his lyrical skills. Chuck D graduated from Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School and then attended Adelphi University in New York.
Chuck D has changed people’s vision of rap music. He managed to make them envision it as a political power. He fought for black consciousness. Politically engaged, he co-hosts the radio show « Unfiltered » on Air America Radio.
Chuck D is also the co author of an essay Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality, along with Yusuf Jah and film director Spike Lee.

Flavor Flav

William Jonathan Drayton, Jr. aka Flavor Flav was born on March the 16th, 1959 in Long Island, NYC. He was a classically trained pianist.
Attending the Adelphi University, rapping under the nickname of DJ Flavor, he met a graphic design student who was nobody else but his future partner, Chuck D.
Flavor Flav is known as the vocalist and the second rapper of Public Enemy.

Professor Griff

Professor Griff aka Richard Griffin was born on August the 1st, 1960.
He is the third member, drummer and producer of the group and also the head of S1W .
S1W, Security Of the First World, is a security organization based in Roosevelt, New York, also known as Unity Force. It is supposed to provide security at hip hop parties.
The appellation « First World » rejects the idea of black people being part of the Third World, because they were the first inhabitants of planet Earth.
Professor Griff is known for his radical Afro centric views. He has also fought European oppression against black people.

Terminator X

Terminator X aka Norman Rogers was born on August the 25th,1966.
He is the DJ in Public Enemy.
He owes his nickname to Chuck D:

“I gave him the name Terminator X, which meant that he was terminating all the nonsense, and the X symbolized the unknown, a mystery. He’s terminating all the things we think we believe, that we really don’t know about.” Chuck D

About the name « Public Enemy »

You might be curious to know why this explosive group was called Public Enemy.
Chuck D used to work at a local new York radio, WBAU. At this time, Chuck D wanted to beat one of his rival rappers who had called him out for a battle.
He decided to entitle his tape Public Enemy #1, in collaboration with Flavor Flav before the group was founded.

Innovators

Chuck D and his fellow members have been innovative in many ways.
They were the first artists to put some mp3 albums on their website, allowing people to access to their art on the internet.
Terminator X came up with new scratching techniques. Not have Public Enemy offered their public an original style, combined with good quality lyrics, they have also opened some doors for more social consciousness in America.

Controversy

Not everybody in America did appreciate Public Enemy’s engagement in the S1W movement. Because of their offensiveness, many people considered Public Enemy as a concrete menace.
Around 1990, Professor Griff was accused of anti – Semitism, because of the lyrics of Rap Attack 2. Some people implied that he held the Jews « responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world » .

He denied what people reproached him calling those attacks against him « crazy, crazy, crazy ». In fact, he was very misunderstood in his point of view. Professor Griff was against Zionism, not against the whole Jewish community.

The FBI, who did not exactly like Public Enemy listed the group on a report called « Rap Music and Its Effects on National Security”, being convinced that they represented a real danger.

The single «Swindler’s Lust » and Professor Griff’s statements were not really in the Jewish community’s taste, so the group was condemned by the Anti Defamation League.

Rap music is the CNN of black people

Nobody expresses black rage against White America as well as the Public Enemy group. Tired of seeing Blacks treated like second zone citizens, Chuck D managed to awake black consciousness in many people’s minds. He made people realize the importance of rap music as a strong form of protest against the injustice and the inequality of treatment within the black community. Thanks to Chuck D’s strong engagement in the media, black folks would realize that it was possible to fight the power of a white corporate America.
Black militants have helped for many Blacks to regain pride and self confidence and to become active in fighting racism and social discrimination.
Never afraid to speak their mind, Chuck D and Public Enemy’s work is the work of mature men who were never afraid to tell the truth:

“I wasn’t a child when I made this record. I was 27, 28. I was ready. Whenever you push the envelope, you get disgruntled looks.” (Chuck D about his second CD)

Public Enemy’s videos are great work and also the expression of black identity and nationalism. By The Time I Get To Arizona, shows the group’s determination to fight racism by any means. Fight The Power and Shut Em Down are also worth a look

Chuck D has some sincere criticism to offer towards a government that is lead by phony leaders:

« I think governments are the cancer of civilization. »

Here you go, Chuck D!
As long as governments won’t work towards more racial equality and more justice for the underprivileged, we will have to unite and fight the power.

Download « Bring the Noise 2000 » and other tracks by Public Enemy here.

Public Enemy are the example of black men who are determined to fight for their rights. Never afraid to raise their voice nor to invade the media when needed.

Check them soldiers out here.

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