Tag Archive: Public Enemy


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Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are eight brass playing brothers (and an unrelated drummer) from Chicago who are all the sons the jazz music legend Kelan Phillip Cohran who played in the original line-up of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the 1950’s. The band grew up practicing their instruments from 6am every morning as children, when they reached their teens they all got into hip-hop spending their nights secretly listening to their new heroes Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and NWA. Eventually these two musical genres would be combined by the brothers when they decided to making a living busking in Chicago. Having honed their sound they moved to New York and soon caused a stir with the mesmerising live performances, which lead to performing alongside Mos Def and Erykah Badu. The songs played as part of those live sets became their self-titled debut album released in 2009, swiftly followed by guest appearances on ‘Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach’ and ‘Sweepstakes’ by Gorillaz. The band then went on the Gorillaz and their own world tour, emerging with two new releases in 2012, one a collaborative album with Cohran, the other a mini album called ‘Bulletproof Brass’.

All through their career to date Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have combined multiple musical genres and always experimented within said genres, ‘Fly’ is no different in this respect throwing guitars, synths, rapping, sung vocals and Latin drums and percussion into the mix. The album opens with ‘P.O.T.A.’, there’s a quick drum roll that brings in a parping horn riff that plays counterpoint to an ascending horn melody, it’s all underpinned with a head nodding hip-hop beat. Around two minutes in the trumpet breaks away from the other instruments to play an expressive solo, it provides a nice contrast to the mournful and strict parts of the track that preceded it. Next up is ‘Rebel Rousin’ which opens with a staccato horn riff playing over the slippery minimal bass line and drum break, a trumpet plays a staccato solo over the top.  There’s a great build up that reminds me of ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool and the Gang. The title track is the first of the three vocal tracks on album and features Aquilla Sadallah, it kicks off with a drum break put through a cool reverb, a Latin sounding trumpet riff and ‘la la la’ backing vocals. Then Sadallah drops in for his first rap verse which gives way to the laidback and smooth vocal lead chorus.

Next up its ‘Baggae Claim’ with its combination of hard head nodding beat, lilting rhythm guitar and bright interweaving brass riffs that up the track. Then the guitar falls away and the drums, sousaphone bass line and a staccato trumpet riff take over. There’s a little change up on the brass and the original section kicks in again. The saxophone takes a solo over the sousaphone, drums and guitar around one minute in. It’s a great example of how the band mix up hard and light sounds to stunning effect. ‘Navigator’ utilises a blunt beat and deep minimal sub bass to back the sharp attack of the brass section, then things back down to an 8 bit synth riff and deep voiced rap verse that are a complete stylistic change for the band. Next up is Exchange Rate’ that opens with a spoken word sample over subdued trumpet, then the rest of the brass section and beat drop in. All the instruments drop except drums, piano and a guitar which plays a solo. The brass returns with the sax playing its own solo.  It’s another departure for the band that hadn’t used guitar or piano on any of their track before this album. ‘Favela Funk’ is the second of the two Latin influenced tracks (the other one being ‘Fly’) and combines a fast percussion pattern play behind spritely trumpet and trombone riffs another trumpet solos over the top.

The addition of the Latin rhythms to the band’s sound works as they’re previous work suggested and the same can be said of adding the raps to their hip-hop influenced tracks. However, I’m totally convinced that the rappers and rapping feature on this album always gels well with the band’s tracks and though ‘Navigator’ would have been a solid track on many a hip-hop album the band don’t quite pull off the electronic organic hybrid. Despite these missteps “Fly” is an excellent addition to an impressive back catalogue.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Brian Eno and David Byrne – “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (Sire Records, 1981)

This month’s Classics Critiqued choice has direct links back to last month’s choice “Remain In Light” (1980) by Talking Heads. In fact, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” was recorded and intended for release before “Remain In Light” something left Brian Eno feeling bitter as he felt “Remain In Light” overshadowed his and Byrne’s collaborative effort. In this article I explore the concept behind the album, the recording process, the issues it bought to the music industry and the world’s attention and its legacy and influence on the musicians who were captivated by the album.

“My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” began life as part of three recordings sessions held in RPM and Blue Rock Studios in New York in August and September 1979. These recording sessions featured Bill Laswell (bass), David Byrne (guitar), Laraaji (zither/dulcimer) and a host of downtown buskers recruited by Eno, these musicians jammed together while Eno managed the mixing desk, recording the messy results. Between the sessions Eno would edit and mix the jams struggling to find something coherent. As the sessions progressed a direction slowly emerged blending together what Eno described as “disco-funk (fashionable in New York at the time), Arabic/North African music and black African music”. After making these recordings Eno busied himself collaborating with Jon Hassell on “Fourth World Vol.1: Possible Musics” (1980) before returning to the recordings with intention of recording a collaborative album with Hassell and Byrne that acted as “fake field recording of a non-existent tribe.” The trio would meet up in December 1979 after Byrne had returned from four months of touring Talking Heads “Fear of Music” (1979) they would listen to records released by the French label Ocara who released authentic music from around the world. Their concept for the album evolved as Byrne recalled into “… a field recording… of the future”.

Eno left New York on New Yea Eve 1979 to fly to the West Coast for a lecture tour in his luggage was the tape from the summer sessions which intended to continue developing while on the West Coast. He began work in earnest shaping what would become ‘Mea Culpa’ and adding to it one of ‘found vocals’ that would become one of main talking points around “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”. In January 1980 Eno meet a satirical rock troupe called The Tubes who he played the demo of ‘Mea Culpa’, impressed by what he heard drummer Charles Lenprere ‘Prairie’ Prince offer his services to Eno. He was put to work in L.A.’s Eldorado studio not only to play conventional percussion instruments but also what Eno named the ‘banging board’ a drum kit from which drums were removed and replaced with cardboard boxes and pots and pans adding further texture to the already multifaceted sound. At this juncture Eno contacted Byrne and Hassell to join in L.A. to continue developing the now burgeoning project, Byrne who was still tired from touring and was suffering writers block jumped at the chance but Hassell a jobbing composer had to turn down the invitation and Byrne became the sole collaborator on the project.

By now Eno had established a rough method for creating tracks for the album. He slowly built up layers of sound before then stripping the track down and then beginning the process again. He’d become obsessed with the idea of ‘interlocking parts’ as he explained ‘Instead of having a few instruments playing complex pieces’ he explained, ‘you get lots of instruments all playing very simple parts that mesh together to create a complex track’. It was this approach that informed the “complex, ever-shifting webs of texture rhythm” that made up “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”.

Early on in the process of conceptualizing and creating the album Eno and Byrne decided that neither of them wanted to sing on album. This was because they believed that people perceived that the person who was singing the song had written the song and they wanted to create music that would be perceived differently. However, both agreed that there should some sort of vocals present on the album. So they decided to use recording both from the Ocara records that they’d heard and radio broadcasts of phone-in callers, right-wing radio hosts and evangelical preachers. It was these vocals that were the most controversial sounds on “My Life in Bush of Ghosts” provoking negative critical reviews. Rolling Stone magazines Jon Pareles said the album asked “stubborn questions about context, manipulation and cultural imperialism’, he went on to accuse the duo of having “trivialized the event” when sampling an exorcism on ‘The Jezebel Spirit’. Pareles asked “Does this global village have two way traffic?” and L.A. Times critic Mikal Gilmore said the album had moment of “gimmickry”. These criticisms and the music press’ general perception of the album as an afterthought after its delayed release, due to Talking Heads having to deliver a new album to Sire and a number of sample clearing issues left Eno feeling bitter and that album deserved more praise.

In retrospect, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” critical opinion has generally been revised and the album is now seen as the innovative release it always was one that preceded sampling by several years and challenged ideas about authorship and audience perception of who wrote and/or performed a piece of music. It still sounds revelatory in a world where music fans accepted the person whose name on the cover as the writer of the music, while being able to recognise when sampled material has been used by the composer.

Over the last thirty one years “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” has steadily gained a cult following among both music fans and music creators alike. The album preempted and was an influence on acts such as Big Audio Dynamite, the Chemical Brothers and El-P and his original hip-hop group Company Flow, whose abstract hip-hop was compared to the album. It also had an impact on the making of Public Enemy’s 1988 masterpiece “Fear of the Black Planet”, DJ Shadow’s sampling watershed moment “Entroducing” (1996) and early drum ‘n’ bass innovator A Guy Called Gerald’s classic album “Black Secret Technology” (1995). All-in-all its difficult to imagine the musical landscape of the last 30 years without “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” even if the album is sometimes overlooked in this respect, the argument for its place in the lineage of electronic music still stands firm.

Let us know what you think of “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” in the comments below or via our Twitter.

Listen to “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” here.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Critical Beatdown” (Next Plateau, 1988)

This month’s Classics Critiqued choice is a sometimes overlooked cult classic hip-hop album by one of the genre’s most ground breaking and off the wall groups. In this article I will explore Ultramagnetic MCs’ originals, the making of “Critical Beatdown”, investigate ideas commonly discussed around the album, its lyrical content, production techniques and the context in which the album was released. I’ll also discuss the legacy “Critical Beatdown” has left.

Ultramagnetic MCs were formed in 1984 by the MC Kool Keith (aka Keith Thornton), Ced Gee (aka Cedric Miller) – MC/Producer, Moe Luv (aka Maurice Smith) – DJ/Producer and TR Love (aka Trevor Randolph) – MC while they were members of the New York City Breakers and People’s Choice break dance crews. After misfiring with their first single “To Give You Love” (1986) Ultramagnetic MCs released their first groundbreaking 12” the minimalist “Ego Trippin”. It featured the first use of the “Synthetic Substition” drum break by Melvin Bliss (later sampled by the likes of Naughty By Nature, Redman and Gang Starr and becoming a hip-hop staple) and some simple but devastatingly effective synth stabs. Amazingly the next 12” was even more innovative “Funky/Mentally Mad” showcased the two key talents of Ultramagnetic MC’s. “Funky” highlighted Ced Gee’s production skills. Based around a Joe Cocker piano sample (released almost ten years before Dr.Dre took the same sample and turned it into a bona fide hit in “California Love” by Tupac) it was a revolution in underground hip-hop. Meanwhile “Mentally Mad” showcased Kool Keith’s incredible freestyle abstract rapping style that dealt with everything from space exploration to sex. These 12” singles received critical acclaim and much support from New York’s biggest hip-hop DJs, setting up Ultramagnetic MCs as hip-hop next big act.

While he was working on the debut album that would become “Critical Beatdown”, producer Ced Gee worked on another nascent hip-hop act Boogie Down Productions’ debut album “Criminal Minded” (1987) which showcased a harsh minimalist brand of hip-hop not unlike that of Ultramagnetic MCs. “Critical Beatdown” wasn’t released until the following year, 1988, and this explains in part why it’s often overshadowed by classic albums by Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Jungle Brothers and Slick Rick, as well as competing with other sterling efforts from EPMD and Stetasonic. In short 1988 was water shed moment for hip-hop. Augus Batey (who wrote the sleeve notes for the 2004 reissue of “Critical Beatdown”) put it another way in a recent article on Ultramagnetic MCs second album “Funk Your Head Up” (1992) “Their 1988 masterpiece, Critical Beatdown, wasn’t the all-conquering hero history tends to have turned it into: crafting their inspirational unique style over a series of 12″ singles, Ultra would have achieved the impact their music merited had the paperwork permitted the LP to come out a year earlier. Throw it in the mix next to the three acknowledged foundational classics of New York hip hop’s early Golden Age – the 1987 debuts by Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions – and we’d today be talking about hip hop’s four horsemen, not the music’s holy trinity. “Critical Beatdown” is not only every bit as good as those records, a case can easily be made that it’s better than each and every one of them. It was hailed as a great album, but by ’88, it was just another one among many.”

When the album did arrive it showcased not only Ced Gee’s excellent sample choices and Kool Keith’s lunatic lyrical style but also Gee’s skills with the Emu SP-1200 sampler and his undeniably brilliant flow. Ced Gee was the first hip-hop producer that chopped up the breaks and instrumental samples instead of simply looping them, which soon became the norm for hip-hop producers the world over. The technique preceded the first sampladelic masterpieces “Paul’s Boutique” by the Beastie Boys and De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” which would be released a year after “Critical Beatdown”. In fact, Posdnous of De La Soul admitted Ultramagnetic MCs’ influence in the 2004 reissue notes – “I think the only people that we looked to for a blueprint when we were making “3 Feet High & Rising” were the Ultramagnetic MCs. They were very different as well, how they rhymed, but they still had more harder-edged beats than what we were presenting.” Another innovation on the album was the proto-drum ‘n’ bass breaks of ‘Ain’t It Good to You’, a track that felt like it was tearing the very fabric of the samples apart as it hurtled towards its conclusion. Other highlights on the album include the organ driven ‘Ease Back’, turntablism anticipating ‘Moe Luv’s Theme’, the fantastically funky ‘Give the Drummer Some’, the tough hardcore ‘Break North’ and the ‘Louie Louie’ sampling ‘Travelling at the Speed of Thought’.

While Ced Gee and Moe Luv provided the ground breaking music it was Kool Keith who was the centre of attention when it came to the lyrical content of “Critical Beatdown”. Though he would later give himself over completely to lyrics about varied subjects such as sex or space exploration he still had one foot in the reality of the street on “Critical Beatdown”, which meant he was taken more seriously by critics and fans. However, the group chose not to focus on the negative things that were happening around them instead going with whatever “sounded good”. Keith’s style was freestyle both in the way he wrote and the way he delivered his mind-boggling rhymes.

“Critical Beatdown” would become instantly influential with Posdnous of De La Soul and Chuck D of Public Enemy praising their unique sound, lyrical content and flows would influence the creation of the former’s “3 Feet High and Rising” (1989) and the latter’s “It’ll Take A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988). The influence and innovation of Ultramagnetic MCs and “Critical Beatdown” can be heard in a huge amount of underground hip-hop and gangsta rap artists, everyone from Main Source to Cannibal Ox and many, many more.

Let me know what you think of “Critical Beatdown” in the comments or via our Twitter.

Listen to “Critical Beatdown” here.

Liam

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Midnight Marauders’ (1993, Jive Records)

This month’s selection is a hip-hop classic from the early nineties that in retrospect stands as both one of the last of its kind and a precursor to what was to come in the genre. By the time ‘Midnight Marauders’ was released in 1993, A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) (Q-Tip – rapper/producer, Phife Dawg – rapper and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad) were a well established conscious rap group that had already released two albums: the brilliant debut “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” and, ‘The Low End Theory’, which established their trademark sound. As members of the Native Tongues posse which also featured De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, Monie Love and Queen Latifah ATCQ pioneered a form of hip-hop that was lyrically and musically opposed to the underground gangsta rap scene and the militant sound of Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. A Tribe Called Quest’s style leant heavily on jazz samples and instrumentation such as double bass, Rhodes piano, brass riffs, producing a smooth and distinct sound that was bright without being lightweight. ‘The Low End Theory’ also brought the trio wider attention, setting them up for the more commercial sound of ‘Midnight Maunders’ and its success.

‘Midnight Maunders’ is viewed as their ‘commercial album’ and yielded their biggest hit yet with ‘Award Tour’, propelling the album into the Billboard Top Ten. The release is also their most quality-consistent album. The NME called it their “most complete work to date” and Melody Maker also complimented this new found consistency, “A Tribe Called Quest have expanded their vision with a lyrical gravitas and a musical lightness of touch that has hitherto eluded them across a whole album”. Whereas the two previous albums had consisted of a selection of highlights and the occasional filler ‘Midnight Maunders’ manages an incredible 15 tracks without a single duff moment, a real rarity in hip-hop albums, which often revolve around a few singles and a lot of filler and skits. The use of the ‘album tour guide’ that features throughout is another element that helps tie the album together while never interrupting its flow.

Combing hard drums (they had previously chosen softer sounds to compliment the jazz samples), up-tempo grooves (another new facet to their once laidback sound), jazz instrumentation and catchy hooks imbues the album with a more immediate sound. The MCs Q-Tip and Phife Dawg are on top form trading lyrics back and forth with irrepressible flows. Their near-telepathic chemistry has vastly improved compared to that on previous albums, Lyrically the album flits between socio-political topics such as police harassment and nocturnal activity (‘Midnight’), religious faith (“God Lives Through”) to candid use of the word “nigga” (‘Sucka Nigga’)” and playful braggadocio on ‘Steve Biko (Stir It Up)’ with the lyrics: “Rude boy composer, Step to me you’re over, Brothers wanna flex, You’re not Mad Cobra, MC short and black, There aint no other”, ‘Clap Your Hands’, ‘Oh My God’ (featuring a flourishing Busta Rhymes) and ‘God Lives Through’. There is a real sense of the times in which they lived with lyrics referencing Nelson Mandela being freed and South African human rights activist Steve Biko and problems with African American violence while some lyrics are more general, covering black politics and culture, particularly ‘Sucka Nigga’:

“It means that we will never grow, you know the word dummy

Other niggas in the community think its crummy

But I don’t, neither does the youth cause we

Embrace adversity it goes right with the race

And being that we use it as a term of endearment

Niggas start to bug to the dome as where the fear went”

A Tribe Called Quest were not lacking in interesting samples either and they established themselves as fine ‘diggers’ – skilled in the art of finding records to sample for production. They continued to demonstrate this skill with ‘Midnight Marauders’: ‘Award Tour’ sampled obscure jazz session musician Irvine Weldon’s ‘We Gettin’ Down’, ‘Clap Your Hands’ mixed up The Meter’s ‘Handclapping Song’ with jazz from Bob James and Lou Donaldson and Clyde McPhatter’s rock guitar is a surprising choice for ‘Lyrics to Go’. These examples indicate how ATCQ could keep people guessing when it came to their choice of samples. It wasn’t just the trio handling the music on this album either as ‘8 Million Stories’ is produced by Skeff Anselm and ‘Keep It Rollin’ by Large Professor both of whom were up and coming hip-hop producers at the time. ATCQ also gave exposure to a young Raphael Saadiq who contributes to ‘Midnight’ and Busta Rhymes (still three years away from his debut solo single) who appears on ‘Oh My God’. This also bears out the idea that A Tribe Called Quest were great promoters of other hip-hop talent with ‘Midnight Marauders’’s cover featuring headshots of hip-hop artists they respected. De La Soul, the Beastie Boys, MC Lyte and Doug E. Fresh can be spotted.

In many ways ‘Midnight Marauders’ sealed their legacy and still deserves the acclaim it received on release as the last classic of the ‘Golden Age’ of hip-hop and the last great album to be released by a member of the Native Tongues posse. Hip-hop was at a cross roads that split between the positivity of Native Tongues, the emergent forces of macho gangsta rap and the dark, underground sound of Wu Tang Clan. The darker forces would prevail in the short term but A Tribe Called Quest still managed to extend an influence beyond their time together. In the early 2000s a selection of underground hip-hop artists including Mablib, Frank ‘n’ Dank and Little Brother adopted influence from the mellow jazz vibes of ATCQ and in 2008 Kanye West sang ATCQ’s praises as an inspiration that made him want to become a rapper and producer –

“Can you remember the first record you bought?
Yeah, it was, errrr, A Tribe Called Quest ‘Low End Theory’.

Who did you look up to in terms of artists when growing up?
I mean, yeah – A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, George Michael. I’m thinking about when I was a little kid, LL Cool J…”

The album has featured in many Best Albums lists including The Source’s 100 Best Hip-Hop Albums of All Time, Pitchfork’s Top 100 Albums of the 1990s and The Guardian’s 100 Albums that Don’t Appear in All Other Top 100 Album Lists amongst others. ‘Midnight Marauders’ transcends its era and lives on as classic album that is well worth rediscovering.

Spotify playlist:

A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

Classics Critiqued

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Public Enemy – ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ (1990, Def Jam Records)


For the final Classics Critiqued of 2010 I’ve chosen an album that earlier this year reached its 20th anniversary. Public Enemy’s ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ opened up the 90s with the HUGE drums of ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’ and in retrospect set the tone for the next few years of American music as well as being an important landmark in hip-hop’s march towards commercial success and acceptance (not that acceptance was something Public Enemy sought). There is often debate about whether ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ is better than their previous album ‘It’ll Take A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’, which is often cited as the ‘Greatest Hip-Hop Album of All Time’ and both albums regularly feature in writers’ polls for the ‘Greatest Albums of All Time’ and though I will discuss the difference in this piece, it is a separate subject.

At the time ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ was met with universal acclaim here and the in US, from Rolling Stone to the NME. The critics didn’t just pick up the album’s undeniable musical power but also its power as a cultural force for black people and hip-hop as a genre. Greg Sandow of Entertainment Weekly called it “a formidable piece of work and the one pop album released so far this year that no one interested in the current state of American culture can afford to ignore.” This was an album that challenged the very people that Public Enemy had begun to apply to, the ‘white people’ that they had problems with were attracted to this visceral and catchy sound, this wasn’t just a ball of experimental noise but jammed full of hooks that stuck in the brain. Further to this Public Enemy showed ‘the first hard evidence of rap’s maturity’, the lack of which had come in for hard line criticism before this release.

In the modern critical musical climate this sort of praise would not seem like such a big deal but in 1990 such unanimous acclaim from the white rock music press was unheard of for a hip-hop act. Public Enemy were truly on top of the world that year. They dominated MTV, by now a major player in the music industry, played huge stadium shows and sold 2 million copies of ‘Fear of the Black Planet’. It was now their planet as foreseen on the back cover of ‘Fear of the Black Planet’.

Their dominance of 1990 and the sound of ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ proved pivotal for hip-hop music as a whole. Previously Public Enemy and their peers had used a flurry of breakbeats as their main weapon and now the beats were stripped back and hit deeper. You could still dance to these; you just danced slower. This programming changed hip-hop forever: it is now extremely rare to hear an MC lead hip-hop track with a breakbeat. They now reside almost solely in instrumental underground hip-hop. The samples are used differently on ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ too. Rather than singular sounds flying in from all over the stereo image they are layered and interwoven to create a wall of sound and this more focused approach is no less powerful than what was achieved with ‘Nation of Millions’ and it still hits as hard today. One of the most surprising elements of this album is that its tracks still have the ability to cut it 20 years despite all the technological advancements made subsequently.

In many ways Public Enemy and Golden Age hip-hop fans have been disappointed by what hip-hop has since become. Chuck D. himself says it is ‘undeveloped’ and that albums such as ‘Nation of Millions…’ and ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ can still sound radical to teenagers who hear it for the first time today because of its radical political message and that it is a relative to current commercial hip-hop. In the comments section of an interview Chuck D did with The Quietus in 2008 a teenager said ‘When I bought the album on a whim last year I was 15…and it certainly was radical for me from a musical point of view.’ From personal experience I can bear this out, being exposed to Public Enemy as a teenager completely blew my mind and still does over ten years later.

‘Fear of the Black Planet’ was a vital release on many levels in terms of the political issues it confronted and its influence on hip-hop’s musical and commercial development. Though hip-hop truly broke through the mainstream with Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Ready to Die’ and the beginning of P Diddy’s dominance as the hip-hop businessman, ‘Fear of the Black Planet’ was an incredibly important milestone on the way to commercial acceptance. More so Public Enemy were one of the last hip-hop acts (though there’s still time for more) who united and dominated America. Half of all copies sold were bought by Caucasians, which was and is still an important statistic in the genre’s timeline. Here was an act with the power to cross the biggest national divide. Though I could list the likes of EL-P and his Def Jux label, socially-conscious rappers such Mos Def and Talib Kweli etc. and many others directly informed by the group and ‘Fear of the Black Planet’, it seems needless as Public Enemy influenced all hip-hop (and some dance music) that followed this album’s release 20 years ago.

Spotify playlist:

Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet

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