Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet

I was zoning out working on French stuff.  If any of you can spare the time today, the record is Public Enemy’s “Fear of A Black Planet” here’s the playlist: 



Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet: 4 stars

Precon: Own it. I’ll take this time to say it has one of the greatest album covers of all time.

Favorite Track: Welcome to the Terrordome
Least Favorite: Anti-Nigger Machine for the extended intro

This is a pretty dense album in both sound and content. I appreciate them swinging for the fences more than ever with songs like 911 Is a Joke, Fight the Power, the title track, well the whole album basically. They’re lining up all the elephants in the room, from black self hatred to the hush hush fear of miscegenation, and just coming at them head on. That takes some balls.
The production, while pretty awesome, holds the album back a little for me not because I don’t particularly like the sound but just because there’s so much of it. The Bomb Squad’s “wall of noise,” as Chuck D calls it, can be quite mindnumbing, especially by track 20.
Chuck has one of the greatest voices ever, but even that gets monotonous at times, and I find myself wishing Flav would chime in. You gotta love the hard rhyming though. He delivers every line with such force that it automatically makes what he’s saying seem more powerful.
These issues I have are basically just me nitpicking and explaining why I didn’t give it a higher rating, because on the whole, I love this album. I might have It Takes a Nation of Millions slightly ahead of it, but they’re both up there. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of Public Enemy seems to overshadow their actual body of work. I want to say that’s a shame, but maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s what they wanted. It means they had a huge impact on American culture. Whatever the case, they brought it hard on this one, musically and ideologically.


Preconceived Notions:  Before Flava Flav morphed into some type of raunchy cartoon character that is so pitiful one can’t help but dismiss him on sight, rather than actually feel anything substantially toward him one way or another…I hear he used to be part of some rap group or something.  Public Enemy is widely respected in the genre critically, but I was never interested in them enough to check out a full album.  Let’s go down 80’s rap road…

After Listening: Pretty much 100% what I expected from exposure to the group’s singles.  I’m not generally about overtly political/society songs- I mean at some point when you have an album full of them, you just wind up on repeat.  This isn’t to say that’s an exclusive trait to politics though, an album full of love songs runs into the same short comings.  Still, in total it’s nice to hear the majority of verses on the record are thought through – even the more aggressive ones have an agenda beyond the fake and mindless aggression showcased on too many records today.  Chuck D’s delivery and his actual vocal tone are clear and deliver power without the use of histrionics…and that to me lends even more credence to this album than the subject matter.  The skits are a collection of hit and miss…the intro “Contract on World Love”  being an example of when it works.  The production here is definitely a signature of its time period, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “dated”.  Rather it’s just a jumble…from the backing guitar riffs on “Brothers Gonna Work it out”…to the various ambulance and police sirens, the sampled horns…it’s just a very dense eclectic collage on most songs.

Favorite Tracks:  “911 is a Joke” – Something about Flava’s story telling on this one always gets me. Sort of his imperfect cadence-  “the doctors huddle up and call a fleaflicker-reason why I say that is they flick you off like fleas”.  A serious subject tackled in a distinctly non serious way.
“Burn Hollywood Burn” – I like the guest appearances by Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane, and their pace is perfect.  Props for use of the word  “jigaboo” which I’ve always thought was a ridiculously fun word…despite its unfortunate connotations.  The subject matter of Hollywood exploiting black people – tied in with Flava’s in song “audition”, just gives the track a lot of weight.
“Fight the Power” – Love the opening samples and the beat is sort of a funk inspired riff that chugs along right along into a Flav’s backing.  Chuck is upfront and clear,  and by the time you get to the famous “Elvis” part of the verse you are adequately prepped for the flames he’s trying to stir up.  The closing sample of looped guitar work then scratched on the turntable completes a representation that seems to encompass the spirit of all of the musical production on the entire album.

Least Favorite Tracks: “Pollywanacraka” – I respect and am impressed by the message of the song, but the delivery is too painful.  It’s just like a bunch of skits sewn together…by an annoying spoken delivery.

Overall: 4.4 I was impressed. Even though I knew the formula, for most of the album I wasn’t too bored with it. The production on the “backings” remains dense and varied enough.  The subject matter isn’t meant necessarily for everyone at all times, I can’t see popping this in for an easy- good time song…but most of them are catchy and all of them have something to say.  I will probably check out their newer stuff to see how they’ve developed with the years, this one is a little too trapped in the time period for me to put on regular listens, but if they get more experimental with production, and have updated lyrical topics then I could be all in.


Preconceptions: Own it. Love it. A classic. Perhaps the greatest political rap record ever recorded. Haven’t listened in its entirety in a long time though.

After Listening: Wow, I forgot how damn good this album is. I mean, seriously. It is amazing, and it brought back memories of when I first bought it and listened to it constantly. I had it on cassette, and when I first bought it I worked at Pathmark gathering carts in the parking lot. For whatever reason, I have a vivid memory of listening to this on my Walkman while doing the carts one extremely hot day back in the day when it came out. I remember thinking it was awesome, and it got my adrenaline pumping and stuff. Those carts were slain as a result.

Aside from that particular memory, the album is particularly impressive and notable for its timing. Race relations around the country, and particularly in PE’s native NYC, were extremely tense in 1990. So, this was timely and bold. Musically, I’m impressed with how densely layered the sound is. There is just so much going on and it’s just brilliant the vast majority of the time. Chuck D may not be a brilliant lyricist, but the power and conviction in his delivery in legendary and one of a kind—and it’s nice to hear Flav before he became a caricature of himself and the drugs rotted his brain.

The samples are incredible, and the media snippets interwoven into the music are just awesome. I love the snippets from the Alan Colmes/Chuck D interview—It may not be Colmes’ fault entirely, but the extreme whiteness in his voice, and his ineffectual brand of liberalism serve up a perfect addition to the overall message of this record.

In all, this really is as solid as it gets, I’d say.

Faves: 911 is a Joke, Welcome to the Terrordome, Burn Hollywood Burn (awesome tag team approach here), Fight the Power
Least: Nothing sucks here, sorry

Overall: 5 Stars

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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