Archive for the ‘public enemy’ Category

et hop! fight the power

November 15, 2007

yeah… community and grassroots politcs…

one of the first two hip hop-records i bought was public enemy‘s yo! bum rush the show. cool record. screetchy, noisy and somewhat repetetive – i remember thinking at the time that they had understood kraftwerk better then kraftwerk themselves and were doing it just much better – and what was to me rather important at the time: much more aggressive. yeah, i was listening at the time to a lot of rather hard music – and this new hard and angry sound just fitted very nicely with me. not only with me: public enemy was definitly cool at the time, especially with the people that were already familiar with harder underground sounds. but that gave also way to some misunderstandings. i was used to hard acts also doing a hard image from the industrial and ebm (electronic body music) genres. so somehow i understood public enemy as being like these bands: politically leftist, somehow ironic and playing with a certain imagery. yep, it was a certain cultural misunderstanding: little did i understand of american (internal) politics and mechanisms. that public enemy could not be filed under “another hard, angry band” became then slowly apparent to me.

i also loved their next two records, it takes a nation of millions to hold us back and fear of a black planet. as mentioned everywhere else, the music was quite flabbergasting at the time. the use of such excessive sampling has rarely been heard before (well, the technology was very young) and after (due to then installed legal restrictions – these records would therefore not be possible today alone by legal reasons). public enemy also have been such a slap in the face because they did not do party-tracks or tell about their being the biggest mac on the block. they took up the social commentary of grandmaster flash’s the message and turned it into education, into politics – i think chuck d coined the term “infotainement”. yeah – we’re back on grassroots politics. and thanks to public enemy a whole generation of young europeans suddenly knew about malcolm x, the great martin luther king, but also about louis farrakhan and the nation of islam. that was when it turned to be more complicated then just new, exciting music. there were suddenly rumours of anti-gay and anti-jewish remarks – and the anti-jewish remarks actually caused quite a big controversy (well, rightly so). so somehow public enemy kind of lost their “innocence”. where first i assumed that – since they are political – they fight for the rights of all minorities and all that, i had to find out it was not really the case. at the same time i also saw them live – and i have to admit that it was something of a turning point. a turning slowly away point. not because of their aggressiveness (i have seen harsher shows), not because of their military visuals (after all camouflage was all the rage with the underground gay-scene at the time), but because suddenly it became painfully apparent that their lyrics are mostly about internal american politics and somehow do not work in front of a european audience – especially because it seemed that public enemy themselves did not make any difference in their show – i guess i was just waiting for some sign that they are aware that politics work somehow a little bit different in europe. funny enough there was this one thing which really put me off, although just a detail: at some point, chuck d and flavour flav dissed pm dawn, a pop/hip hop outfit with some hits at the time. they could hardly stop telling us that this is not real hip hop and very bad and all that – besides it being rather an odd choice (why pm dawn? there would have been better “targets”) it was also somehow shocking how ferocious they put them down – i was just thinking: hey, you are public enemy, why do you bother? and well, it just showed me one thing public enemy was missing (and that i missed in this moment): some humour. actually flavour flav was somehow responsible for the humour – and well, did he give us a lot to laugh in his mtv-show the flavour of love…

but more important it was one of the first times i realized that hip hop does have a problem from my point of view: hip hop is very often concerned with fending off – it is not inclusive in the sense of: you like it? join us! there were and are always reasons why someone is “not really hip hop”. and if you are not really hip hop you are the enemy. so hip hop is not inclusive, but exclusive. as seen with public enemy’s diss of pm dawn sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. this was especially at the time rather irritating because i first took hip hop as another new emerging genre of electronic music – and i was not the only one: the borders were not drawn that strict – not yet. as music lover i find it a little bit sad that many artists make their music rather unaccessible – but then this exclusivity seems to be a necessary move to construct authenticity in that genre. we get back to that topic in a later post.

so my interest in public enemy waned – but they still are responsible for opening my ear to different music – and they are responsible for me getting better informed about black politcs in the u.s.a.. so they actually did have quite an influence on me – and i guess not only on me.

so – time for some music! i have for you a live recording of public enemy 1987 in the u.k. – i do not have more detailed information then that. the tracklisting reads as follows:

01 intro
02 extended intro
03 too much posse
04 bring the noise
05 miuzi weighs a ton
06 rightstarter
07 raise the roof
08 sophisticated bitch
09 posse intros
10 peace_power rap
11 rebel without a pause
12 flavors dance
13 you gonna get yours
14 time to get busy
15 posse in effect
16 public enemy no 1

so get your ears some early PE – here. enjoy!