Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet was released when I was all of 3 years old in 1990 – the “golden age of hip-hop” (according to a newly discovered Wikipedia article).
Because I grew up in the early 90’s, I was able to witness MTV television in its Kurt Loder heyday before it devolved into its current state of plasticity and redxploitation shows. This, combined with the aforementioned “precious cornerstone jewels of hip-hop” era made for exciting television possibilities – and at times, results.
I remember watching coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral on MTV. I remember that I didn’t understand it, but that watching their coverage made for a compelling story. As an easily influenced 10 year old, somehow MTV’s way of covering the story made it must-watch TV for me. The same thing can be said of their coverage of early 90’s rap and hip-hop.
For whatever reason, no matter how much I didn’t quite grasp what I was watching, it was fascinating and I was drawn to it. Even in their waning days of informative music journalism, MTV was able to tell me that Diana’s death was important.
They did the same for me for gangster rap, Public Enemy included. Their coverage on MTV News of their releases, and ultimately their influence, let me know that, hey- this was an important band. Whether it was the negative press or just something that I knew (as a young journalist in training, I suppose), I felt it.
The best example I can give of Public Enemy’s resounding effect on the listening public during that period is “Incident at 66.6 FM.” Though the song is listed as an instrumental, it’s music overlaid by a sound clip of a radio show, presumably hosted by a white conservative male, whose callers describe Chuck D., Flavor Flav and Terminator X (at the time) as “appalling rabble-rousers.”
It’s amusing because of how narrow-minded it seems now- and that the same things are happening today. Makes me wonder what kind of things will be seen as narrow-minded in the future.
I’ll make two assertions: first, that Fear of a Black Planet is an important record not just because of the content contained within – but because it added so much to the time period. It wasn’t “just another entry.” It was (is) a valued, impossible to replace album.
Secondly: Chuck D. needed Flavor Flav. Sure, Terminator X was important. But Flav brought a flair to the band that set them apart from fellow contributors to the era, N.W.A. So for anyone who finds that Flav is a detractor to the music and group, I categorically disagree with you.
Also, lastly, I have crazy respect for a band that samples their own music (“Contract on the World Love Jam”). So ballsy.
From their historic 1990 record Fear of a Black Planet, this is Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” –
Standout tracks: “Brothers Gonna Work it Out” and “Reggie Jax” – BROOKLYN! – but you can never forget “Welcome to the Terrordome.”
Weakest track: “Anti-Nigger Machine” and “Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya, Man” will show their age and wear on you. At times, the album sounds dated because of some of the beats.
RIYL: Old school rap, hip-hop, early 90s gangster rap.