Belfast Telegraph

Believe the hype around Public Enemy, New York's finest

They are hip-hop royalty and as influential and critically-acclaimed as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. As they take to the stage in Belfast's Limelight club tonight, Edwin Gilson has 20 facts you need to know about Public Enemy.

1. Public Enemy formed in 1982 at Adelphi University, on Long Island, New York. There, graphic design student Carlton Ridenhour started appearing on friends' student radio programmes, rapping under the name of Chuckie D (later to be Chuck D).

2. Soon legendary producer and then record label employee Rick Rubin heard a track that Ridenhour had been working on entitled Public Enemy No.1. Rubin set about assembling a team around Rindenhour, which included the rapper's old friend William Drayton Jr, better known by his stage name Flavor Flav.

3. Lead rapper Chuck D is known for questioning racial equality and the balance of power in America through his lyrics, which are belted out with unapologetic aggression.

4. The group's second vocalist, Flavor Flav plays off Chuck D's abrasiveness by breaking in with quips, taunts and questions. The back and forth between the pair continues to be a key part of Public Enemy's energetic live show.

5. Nowadays, Chuck D and Flavor Flav are complemented on stage by DJ Lord (Lord Aswald) and Professor Griff (Richard Griffin).

6. Public Enemy's second album, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, made the group a household name. Selling more than one million copies, the record is now hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece.

7. Public Enemy's 1990 album Fear Of A Black Planet was their most successful album and featured politically-charged lyrical themes. The song 911 Is A Joke, for instance, was a dig at the police for taking longer to react to emergencies in black communities than in white ones.

8. This album also spawned the track Fight The Power, which has become known as one of the most influential hip-hop songs of all time. It was used repeatedly in Spike Lee's 1989 film Do The Right Thing, about simmering racial tension in multicultural Brooklyn.

9. Fight The Power was also voted the greatest hip-hop song of all time in a VH1 poll in 2009.

10. As well as examining white racism in their songs, Public Enemy also urge black Americans to unite in the face of adversity. Their song Brothers Gonna Work It Out is a key example of this.

11. Occasionally Public Enemy look back into the history of black oppression, with songs like Can't Truss It addressing the issue of slavery and encouraging African Americans to fight back against their tormentors.

12. Public Enemy's staunch pro-black stance often created controversy. When in 1987 Arizona Governor Evan Mecham cancelled a State holiday in honour of Martin Luther King Jr, Public Enemy responded by writing a song called By The Time I Get To Arizona, whose video saw the members of the group assassinating Mecham.

13. In their 1986 song Rebel Without A Pause, Chuck D celebrated JoAnne Chesimard, a convicted murderer and member of African-American group the Black Panthers.

14. Chuck D dismissed the notion of himself as a leader of downtrodden black Americans, stating instead his desire for there to be 500 leaders. More than anything he wanted the black community to come together.

15. The collective worked with thrash metal band Anthrax on a new version of Public Enemy's song Bring The Noise in 1991, a collaboration that also spawned a tour between the unlikely pair. This partnership was helped establish the rap-metal crossover genre.

16. The group's first four albums, released during the late 1980s and early 1990s, all went either gold or platinum, meaning each record sold over 500,000 or 1,000,000 copies.

17. Last year Public Enemy were inducted into the prestigious US Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, making them only the fourth hip-hop act ever to be awarded the honour after Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC and The Beastie Boys.

18. In 1992, Public Enemy became one of the first rap acts to perform at the Reading Festival, an event primarily centred around rock music. The group headlined the bill on the Saturday night.

19. Many musicians have cited Public Enemy as an influence, from rapper Jay-Z to rock band Rage Against The Machine.

20. Public Enemy continue to record music, and their 12th studio album The Evil Empire Of Everything was released in 2012.

Belfast Telegraph


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