Who says rap music can’t evoke change and deliver positive messages to fans?
Legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and his S1W associates, and D.J. Lord, who replaced Terminator X in 1999, has been doing it successfully since the mid-1980s.
Here are my Top 10 Public Enemy songs of all time.
10). 911 Is A Joke (1990).
Perhaps for good reason, Chuck D hasn’t allowed his hype man Flavor Flav to rap much on Public Enemy albums through the years. But when presented with the chance to fly solo, the hilarious Flav always entertains. Flav’s fed up with sluggish emergency call centers and just goes ballistic in “911 Is A Joke.”
9). By The Time I Get to Arizona (1991).
Public Enemy takes flight to Arizona after state legislators refuse to observe Dr. Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. “I’m on the one mission/To get a politician,” the fuming Chuck D raps. For the record, Arizona finally observed the Martin Luther King/Civil Rights holiday for the first time in 1993.
8). Can’t Truss It (1991).
“Can’t Truss It” is yet another rebellious track from the group’s fourth CD, Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black . Rapper Chuck D’s adamant voice and the Bomb Squad’s piercing beats just has a way of making even conservative guys like myself want to stand up, march and fight for a worthy cause.
7). Shut’em Down (1991).
From the initial beat drop in “Shut’em Down,” listeners know they’re in for a treat. As usual, Chuck’s blunt, rapping “I like Nike, but wait a minute/The neighborhood supports so put some money in it.” The classic song’s sincere and powerful message should continually be reinforced in the black community.
6). Miuzi Weighs A Ton (1987).
Though Public Enemy’s sophomore album, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, gets the pub these days, the group’s debut disc, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, contains just as much quality material. Yes, “Miuzi Weighs A Ton” makes my list, but “You Gonna Get Yours” or “Timebomb” could easily be in this slot.
5). Bring The Noise (1987).
Known primarily for conveying positive messages in Public Enemy songs, Chuck D rips it in “Bring The Noise” for those who think he’s limited lyrically on the mic. Flav chimes in for a couple seconds here and there to enhance the audio experience, but for the majority of the nearly four-minute song it’s Chuck D’s show.
4). Don’t Believe The Hype (1988).
With all the talk about black power and rebellion, Public Enemy created a good bit of controversy and was a prime target of media attacks during the late 1980s. As a result, Chuck D and Flavor straightens it all out in “Don’t Believe The Hype.” “Don’t worry/Flavor vision ain’t blurry,” Flav confirms at the end.
3). Rebel Without A Pause (1988).
Like in “Bring The Noise,” Chuck D’s raps are just relentless in “Rebel Without A Pause.” He does pause after each verse to catch a breather and let D.J. Terminator X scratch it up, but once again Chuck flaunts his rapid-fire flow for Public Enemy fans. For sure no other rapper could rock over top the song’s screeching beat like D.
2). Fight The Power (1989).
The politically-charged Public Enemy song was featured in Spike Lee’s blockbuster flick Do The Right Thing and as a result brought much-deserved national attention to the group as well as rap. The timeless “Fight The Power” was named the No. 1 hip-hop song of all time by VH1, proving its overall influence on music.
1). Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos (1988).
If hard-pressed to name a flaw of rapper Chuck D, it would be that he at times attempts to cover too much turf in three or four minutes. In the case of my No. 1 Public Enemy song of all time, “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” an “innocent” Chuck recites one graphic but memorable tale of his escape from prison.
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