Wednesday, 21 November 2007



The fifth Public Enemy studio record is one that holds up better with time more than a person would be forgiven to expect. And this arrives after the blatant handicap the album carries with the glaringly awful title. Chuck D would have been wise to have just called it “Music And Our Message”. That rolls off the tongue.

Release in 1994 it very much reflects a sense of disillusion with the art, of a form that has been mutated into something no longer empowering to its audience but instead many ways stifling. The band never really got caught up in the whole Gangsta nonsense that overwhelmed and for a while engulfed hip-hop in the nineties but in the lyrics spat from Chuck D he certainly addressed it. Flavor Flav wasn’t quite a reality TV star just yet.

It doesn’t take long for the record to pummel you like a sledgehammer. From the off the Bomb Squad is weaving chilling samples and new beacons/sirens to provide a latest wake up call for the listener. If there was any suspicion or suggestion that PE were mellowing out it wasn’t going to happen without a fights (that debatably came with He Got Game).

The show opens with “Whole Lotta Love Goin’ On In The Middle Of Hell” which lives up to its name as an incendiary sonic build up sees D and Flav burst onto proceedings at the 1:50 mark in explosive fashion. “The beginning of the end of an era”, this was not optimistic stuff.

Soon the first single from the album arrives in the form of the playful “Give It Up” complete with wacky video, Flavour declarations and laidback guitar line amongst the deep bass beats. Again D serves with major flow offering a necessary option to the listener.

Things remain visceral on tracks such as “Bedlam 13:13” and “Hitler Day” and certainly the second single “So Whatcha Gonna Do Now?” packs plenty of punch. The “Whites Lines” and A Tribe Called Quest nods held in “Race Against Time” suggest some kind of leaning and yearning towards a previous period. Unfortunately it then cannot be denied that things become a bit plodding partway through, not least on tracks such as “Aintnuttin Buttersong”. It all feels a tad self-defeating. Perhaps ultimately aiming for twenty-one tracks was in the end a bit too ambitious.

This record may not have made the ripples of their earlier albums but that was nothing down to the quality of the material.

Thesaurus moment: still.

Public Enemy
Def Jam Recordings

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