Public Enemy: Black, Bold, and Ballsy

chuck d and flava flav

Music influences life in many ways, and magic happens when it conjugates certain layers coated with a radical political message. Public Enemy, an American hip-hop group, enchanted the classes and the masses with their thought-provoking music and hard-hitting meaning.Public Enemy is a late 1980s and early ‘90s rap group formed by four people: Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour), Flavor Flav (Willian Drayton), Terminator X (Norman Lee Rogers), and Professor Griff (Richard Griffin).This group stood out amongst other bands because of its staunch political message on subjects like American racism and American media.

Deluged in commercial and critical fame, Public Enemy revolutionized hip-hop and conjugated radical Black political stance to pop music.Their albums created a stir among the audience. Their first album, “Yo! Bum Rush the Show”, rose to critical fame, and their next second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” created history by topping The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll. Until today, this hip-hop group has released twelve successful albums, with the first four either certified gold or platinum. In 2013, Public Enemy was felicitated with Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the 62nd Grammy Awards almost two decades after it made its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

chuck and flav

The early years of Public Enemy

Adelphi University on Long Island, New York, testifies to the genesis of this band. In 1985, two African Americans hailing from the suburbs came together to create music. The band released their record, “Check Out the Radio” (created by Chuck D and Flavor Flav), and put it out to promote WBAU (Chuck D’s radio station). Listening to “Public Enemy Number One”, Rick Rubin (Def Jam producer) found himself in awe of Chuck D’s voice and offered him to record.To add a dash of RUN DMC with their political message regarding black youth, Spectrum City, including Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler (the Bomb Squad), joined forces with the band.

Professor Griff became their Minister of Information. Terminator X, a local mobile DJ, joined, and Public Enemy came into being.The band started as Beastie Boys’ opening act and released their debut album “Yo! Bum Rush the Show” in 1987. The album created a huge stir and received critical acclaim. In 1988, the band released its second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”, which became an even bigger hit. Their singles “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Bring the Noise” became sensations.

The Breakthrough

“Fear of a Black Planet”, their third album, on the lines of politics, came out in April 1990 and became their biggest success. The album included singles “Welcome to the Terrordome”, “911 Is a Joke”, and “Fight the Power” (one of the most influential songs in hip hop history). The album was chosen for preservation in the National Recording Registry.“Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black”, their fourth album, was no exception. With songs like “Can’t Truss It” and “I Don’t Wanna be Called Yo Nigga”, the album highlighted the history and problems of the black community. The album also included “By the Time I Get to Arizona”, their controversial number.The group created several histories and passed on several messages until 1998 when Terminator X retired.

chuck d and flava in concert

DJ Lord replaced Terminator X and performed in the group’s 40th World Tour.In 2007 came “How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?” followed by “Beats and Places” in 2011, and “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp” in 2012. Their popular single “Harder Than You Think” from “How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?” featured in the London 2012 Summer Paralympics’ advert, making the song shoot to No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart. In the same year, they released “The Evil Empire of Everything”.The group performed at several concerts and festivals, including Martin Luther King Jr. Concert, South West Four music festival, Glastonbury Festival, Riot Fest & Side Show, and more throughout all these years, and won a massive fan following.

In 2014, the group launched PE 2.0 and introduced Jahi (an Oakland rapper) as the spiritual successor and next generation of the group. This revived group released its first album, “People Get Ready”, in 2014, and its second album, InsPirEd, in 2015. Public Enemy’s thirteenth album, “Man Plans God Laughs”, came in 2015, and in 2017 came their fourteenth album, “Nothing Is Quick in the Desert”. The year 2020 witnessed the departure of Flavor Flav from the famous group. The group announced that they had fired Flavor Flav, only to reveal later that it was a publicity stunt. The same year, Public Enemy released “State of the Union (STFU)” with Flavor Flav.In September 2020, the group released their thirteenth studio album, “What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?”.

Public Enemy and controversy

old school hip hop legends chuck and flav public enemy

Public Enemy could never stay away from controversy. Given the group’s straightforward political messages it gives through its songs, it is only natural for it to drag attention, debates, and disagreements.From the controversy-depicting song, “By the Time I Get to Arizona” from their album “Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Back” to Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic comment to their song “Meet the G That Killed Me”, getting under the scanner for having homophobic lyrics, Public Enemy has always been center of many controversies.But the group has also received all the love and appreciation from the world.

Public Enemy Commemorative Tshirts

Public Enemy isn’t just a hip-hop group known for creating foot-tapping chartbusters. It’s a hope for black youth. It’s a revolution. If you love the bold and fearless attitude of the group and are a fan of their music, our Public Enemy commemorative t-shirts are just for you. Wear our “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back Tribute to Public Enemy” commemorative fan art t-shirt to stand against the discrimination blacks face and thwart the wrong. Order yours now. 

37 thoughts on “Public Enemy: Black, Bold, and Ballsy

  1. Michael Coovert says:

    Public Enemy. They really were the ones who started it all for rap and hip hop in the mainstream.

  2. Amy Smeltzer says:

    I used to listen to them when I was in high school. I think they have always been underrated and deserve more attention than they get/got.

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