- Public Enemy (band)
Infobox musical artist
Name = Public Enemy
Img_capt = Public Enemy performing in 2007 at the
Landscape = yes
Background = group_or_band
Long Island, New York
Genre = Hip hop
Years_active = 1982–present
Label = Def Jam Columbia CBS
Sony Music EntertainmentSlam Jamz Koch Play It Again Sam
Associated_acts = Paris Anthrax
URL = [http://www.publicenemy.com/ www.publicenemy.com]
Chuck D Flavor Flav Professor Griff DJ LordThe S1W
Terminator X Sister Souljah
Notable_instruments = Public Enemy, also known as PE, is an influential hip hop group from
Long Island, New York, known for its politically charged lyrics, criticism of the media, and active interest in the concerns of the African Americancommunity.
Rolling Stone Magazineranked Public Enemy [cite web| title = Public Enemy| work = Adam Yauch. Rolling Stone Issue 946| publisher = Rolling Stone| url = http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5939238/44_public_enemy] number forty-four on its list of the Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. [cite web| title = The Immortals: The First Fifty| work = Rolling Stone Issue 946| publisher = Rolling Stone| url =http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5939214/the_immortals_the_first_fifty] Acclaimed Musicranks them the 29th most recommended musical act of all time and the highest hip-hop group.www.acclaimedmusic.net] The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Famein 2007. [" [http://www.limusichalloffame.org Long Island Music Hall of Fame] "]
igning to Def Jam Records
Developing his talents as an MC with
Flavor Flavwhile delivering furniture for his father's business, Chuck D(Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) and Spectrum City, as the group was called, released the record "Check out the Radio," backed by "Lies," a social commentary—both of which would influence RUSH Productions' Run-D.M.C.and Beastie Boys. The group was signed to the still developing Def Jam Recordings record labelafter co-founder Rick Rubinheard Chuck Dfreestyling on a demo.
Around 1986, Bill Stephney, the former Program Director at WBAU, was approached by Rubin and offered a position with the label. Stephney accepted, and his first assignment was to help Rubin sign Chuck D, whose song "Public Enemy Number One" he had heard from Andre "Doctor Dré" Brown. According to the book "The History of Rap Music" by Cookie Lommel, "Stephney thought it was time to mesh the hard-hitting style of Run DMC with politics that addressed black youth. Chuck recruited Spectrum City, which included Hank Shocklee, his brother Keith Shocklee, and Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, collectively known as
the Bomb Squad, to be his production team and added another Spectrum City partner, Professor Griff, to become the group's Minister of Information. With the addition of Flavor Flavand another local mobile DJ named Terminator X, the group Public Enemy was born."
Their debut album, "
Yo! Bum Rush The Show", was released in 1987 to critical acclaim. The group released the album " It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" in 1988, which performed better in the charts than their previous release, and included the hit single " Don't Believe the Hype" in addition to " Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos". "Nation of Millions..." was voted Album of the Year by the " The Village Voice" Pazz and JopPoll, the first hip-hop album to be ranked number one by predominantly rock critics in a major periodical. It is also ranked the 18th best album of all time by Acclaimedmusic.net.
In 1990, the group released "
Fear of a Black Planet" which continued the politically charged themes. It was also the most successful of any of its albums and, in 2005, was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. It included the singles "911 (is a Joke)," which criticized emergency response units for taking longer to arrive at emergencies in the black community than those in the white community, and " Fight the Power" [ [http://music.aol.ca/article/vh1-crowns-public-enemys-fight-the-power-as-best-hip-hop-song/353728/ Fight The Power Named Best Hip Hop Song, AOL Music Canada ] ] . The song is regarded among the most popular and influential in hip-hop history and was the theme song of Spike Lee's " Do The Right Thing." It is ranked the 84th best song of all time by Acclaimedmusic.net. "Fight the Power" contains the classic lines " Elviswas a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me/You see, straight-up racist that sucker was simple and plain/Motherfuck him and John Wayne."
The group’s next release, "
Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Black", continued this trend, with songs like "Can't Truss It" and "# I Don't Wanna be Called Yo Nigga." The album included the controversial song and video "By the Time I Get to Arizona," which chronicled the black community's frustration that some states did not recognize the Martin Luther King Jr.holiday. The video featured members of Public Enemy taking out their frustrations on politicians in the states not recognizing the holiday.
In 1989, the band did an interview for the "
Washington Times". The interviewing journalist, David Mills, lifted some quotes from a UK magazine in which the band were asked their opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Professor Griff’s comments apparently sympathized with the Palestinians and, reiterated in the new interview, a media firestorm was set off. Additionally, Griff was accused of anti-Semitismin 1989, when Public Enemy enjoyed unprecedented mainstream attention with their "Fight the Power" single from the soundtrack of Spike Lee's " Do the Right Thing". According to Rap Attack 2, he suggested that " Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world" (p. 177). He denies the charge to this day, calling it "crazy...really, really, crazy." Despite Griffin's denial, Ridenhour expressed an apology on his behalf. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE0DA153EF932A2575BC0A96F948260 Public Enemy Hip-Hop Group Reorganizes after Anti-Semitic Comments - New York Times ] ] In an attempt to defuse the situation, Ridenhour first fired Griffin. He later rejoined the group, but Ridenhour then disbanded the group. When Public Enemy reformed, its members initially did so without Griffin. In the late 1990s, he rejoined the band, and Ridenhour and Griffin took on a side project, the Rapcoreoutfit Confrontation Camp.
The controversy and apologies on behalf of Griff spurred Chuck D to reference the negative press they were receiving. In 1990 Public Enemy issued the single "
Welcome to the Terrordome", which contains the lyrics: "Crucifixion ain't no fiction / So-called chosen frozen / Apologies made to whoever pleases / Still they got me like Jesus". These lyrics have been cited by some in the media as anti-Semitic, making supposed references to the Chosen Peoplewith the lyric "so-called chosen" and Jewish deicidewith the last line. [ [http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/rock/pe-90.php Robert Christgau: Jesus, Jews, and the Jackass Theory: Public Enemy ] ]
Public Enemy have also been criticized for
homophobia. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CEEDC1431F930A25756C0A966958260 PUBLIC ENEMY; Strong Adjectives - New York Times ] ] [jeffrubard.wordpress.com/2003/11/01/the-performativity-of-male-heterosexuality-between-beck-and-chuck-d/] The song "Meet The G That Killed Me", from their "Fear of a Black Planet", contained lyrics that portray gay men as being the perpetrators of the spread of the 1980s AIDS epidemic: [www.warr.org/publicenemy.html] [arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,945463,00.html] "Man to man / I don't know if they can / From what I know / The parts don't fit / Ahh shit / How he's sharin' a needle / With a drug addict / He don't believe he has it either / ...But the bag popped".
Public Enemy have also endorsed
Nation of IslamSupreme Minister Louis Farrakhan, [www.wayoflife.org/fbns/rapmusic.htm] [query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE5DF143EF93AA15755C0A96F948260] who has been controversial for his commentary which is often strongly perceived as racist, black nationalist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. [citation|first = Charles|last = Bierbauer|title="Million Man March: Its goal more widely accepted than its leader"|url = http://cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-17/notebook|newspaper = CNN|date = 17 October 1995]
Public Enemy was a pioneering group in many ways. Some of Terminator X's most innovative
scratchingtricks can be heard on the song "Rebel Without a Pause," and the Bomb Squad offered up a web of innovative samples and beats. Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewinedeclared that PE "brought in elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via [its] producing team the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious sound unlike anything that came before." [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gvm1z84ajyv6 allmusic ((( It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back > Overview ))) ] ]
Public Enemy revolutionized the hip-hop world with its political, social and cultural consciousness, which infused itself into skilled and poetic
rhymeswith raucous sound collages as a foundation. Prior to PE, political hip-hop was confined to a few tracks by Ice-T, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and KRS-One, as well as prototypical artists such as Gil Scott-Heronand the Last Poets. PE was the first hip-hop act to base its entire image around a political stance. With the success of Public Enemy, hip-hop was suddenly flooded with new artists that celebrated Afrocentric themes, such as Kool Moe Dee, Gang Starr, X Clan, Eric B. & Rakim, Queen Latifah, the Jungle Brothers, and A Tribe Called Quest. In the 1991 movie "", John Connor( Edward Furlong) wears a Public Enemy t-shirt throughout the entire movie, exhibiting its influence even in mainstream venues.
Public Enemy was the first hip-hop group to make extended world tours, which led to huge popularity and influence in hip-hop communities in Europe and Asia. It also changed the Internet's music distribution capability by being one of the first groups to release
MP3-only albums, [Dubois, Keir. " [http://transcriptions.english.ucsb.edu/archive/topics/infoart/public-enemy/ Public Enemy and MP3] ". "Transcriptions Project", December, 1999. Retrieved on March 17, 2007.] a format virtually unknown at the time.
Public Enemy helped to create and define "Rap metal" by collaborating with New York
Thrash metaloutfit Anthrax in 1991. The single "Bring tha Noize" was a mix of semi-militant black powerlyrics, grinding guitars, and sporadic humor. The two bands, cemented by a mutual respect and the personal friendship between Chuck D and his Anthrax counterpart Scott Ian, introduced a hitherto alien genre to rock fans, and the two seemingly disparate groups even toured together. Flavor Flav's pronouncement on stage that "They said this tour would never happen" (as heard on Anthrax's "" CD) has become something of a legend in both rock and hip-hop circles. Metal guitarists Vernon Reid(of Living Colour) contributed to Public Enemy's recordings, and PE sampled Slayer's "Angel of Death" half-time riff on "She Watch Channel Zero."
Members of the Bomb Squad produced or remixed works for other acts such as
Bell Biv DeVoe, Ice Cube, Vanessa Williams, Sinéad O'Connor, Blue Magic, Peter Gabriel, L.L. Cool J, Paula Abdul, Jasmine Guy, Jody Watley, Eric B & Rakim, Third Bass, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, and Chaka Khan. According to Chuck, "We had tight dealings with MCA Recordsand were talking about taking three guys that were left over from New Editionand coming up with an album for them. The three happened to be Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe, later to become Bell Biv DeVoe. Ralph Tresvanthad been slated to do a solo album for years, Bobby Brownhad left New Edition and blew up in 1988, and Johnny Gillhad just been recruited to come in, but [he] had come off a solo career and could always go back to that. At MCA, Hiram Hicks, who was their manager, and Louil Silas, who was running the show, were like, 'Yo, these kids were left out in the cold. Can y'all come up with something for them?' It was a task that Hank, Keith, Eric, and I took on to try to put some kind of hip-hop-flavored R&B shit down for them. Subsequently, what happened in the four weeks of December  was that the Bomb Squad knocked out a large piece of the production and arrangement on Bell Biv DeVoe's three-million selling album "Poison". In January  , they knocked out "Fear of a Black Planet" in four weeks, and PE knocked out Ice Cube's album " AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" in four to five weeks in February." ["Fight The Power", pp. 236-237] They have also produced local talent such as Son of Bazerk, Young Black Teenagers, Kings of Pressure, and True Mathematics—and gave producer Kip Collinshis start in the business.
Punk Rockband NOFXreferences Public Enemy in their song "Franco Unamerican", stating "I'm watching Michael Mooreexpose the awful truth/ I'm listening to Public Enemy and Reagan Youth."
Origin of name
Chuck D had put out a tape to promote
WBAU(the radio station where he was working at the time) and to fend off a local emcee who wanted to battle him. He called the tape "Public Enemy #1" because he felt like he was being persecuted by people in the local scene.This was the first reference to the notion of a public enemy in any of Chuck D's songs. The single was created by Chuck D with a contribution by Flavor Flav, though this was before the group "Public Enemy" was officially assembled.
"Public Enemy" is also the name of a 1931 classic gangster movie starring
According to Chuck, The S1W, which stands for Security of the First World, "represents that the black man can be just as intelligent as he is strong. It stands for the fact that we're not third-world people, we're first-world people; we're the original people [of the earth] ." [Chuck D. and Yusuf Jah, "
Fight the Power", p. 82)]
On the track "Louder Than a Bomb" from "
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back", Chuck D reveals that the D in his nickname stands for "dangerous".
In the 1999 movie ,
Sonny Valerio( Cliff Gorman) expresses his musical taste—mentioning a few hip-hop acts and the MC that he prefers: Flavor Flav. Afterward, he appears in his bathroom dancing and singing “Cold Lampin' with Flavor,” from the group’s second album, " It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back".
Yo! Bum Rush the Show"
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
Fear of a Black Planet"
Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black"
Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age"
*1998: "He Got Game"
There's a Poison Goin' On"
New Whirl Odor"
Rebirth of a Nation"
How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?"
Chuck D(Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) — leader, producer, lyricist, main vocalist, and artwork
Flavor Flav(William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.) — lyricist, vocalist, producer, instrumentalist, comic relief
Professor Griff(Richard Griffin) head of S1W, liaison between PE and S1W, road manager. Occasional vocalist and producer, plays drums at live shows
*Brian Hardgroove - (Guitarist, Band Director and producer)
DJ Lord(Lord Aswod) — DJ, producer
*Terminator X (Norman Rogers) — DJ, producer (former member)
*DJ Johnny Juice (John Rosado) Studio DJ, Producer
Sister Souljah, occasional vocalist, former member
The following are a part of
the Bomb Squad, the revolutionary production group that is closely associated with (sometimes considered a part of) Public Enemy:
*Hank Shocklee (Hank Boxley)
*Keith Shocklee (Keith Boxley)
*Eric "Vietnam" Sadler
Chuck D is often listed as a member of the Bomb Squad under the pseudonym Carl Ryder, a shortened form of his real name.
The S1W, which stands for Security of the First World, is sometimes considered a part of Public Enemy as well. The members constantly rotate and have included among others
*John (Butch) "Pop" Oliver
*Shawn Kevin Carter aka "The Interrogator"
*Tracy "Big Casper" Walker
*Keith "Krunch" Godfrey
*Jacob "Jake" Shankle
*Many of the future members of Professor Griff's Last Asiatic Disciples
*Butch Cassidy (Aaron Allen) & his group 5ive-O, aka the Interrogators
*Harry Allen is also a part of the group as writer, journalist and media assassin
*Chuck D with Yusuf Jah, Chuck D: "Lyrics of a Rap Revolutionary", Off Da Books, 2007 ISBN 0-974-94841-1
*Chuck D with Yusuf Jah, "Fight the Power", Delacorte Press, 1997 ISBN 0-385-31868-5
Fuck You Heroes, Glen E. Friedman Photographs 1976-1991", Burning Flags Press, 1994, ISBN 0-9641916-0-1
* [http://www.publicenemy.com/ Public Enemy] -- official website.
* [http://video.publicenemy.com/ Public Enemy] -- official video site.
* [http://www.discogs.com/artist/Public+Enemy Pubic Enemy] discography at
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.