|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”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_a_black_planetand 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
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.
|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.
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
Overall: 5 Stars