In the late sass’s a hip-hop group by the name of Public Enemy began to gain prominence and popularity amongst the majority of African-Americans and other ethnicities. With their politically and racially charged lyrics, they amassed millions of fans in the united States and across the globe. In this essay, I hope to elaborate and argue about their somewhat controversial music that united an ample black audience under the common theme of black power and the fight to completely end racial oppression.
Rap and hip hop music, both have been related and linked to black music but has he term ‘black music’ been used correctly or should the term ‘black music’ even exist? According to Philip Tag, he argues that blackness is often characterized as ‘blue notes’, ‘call-and-response techniques’, ‘syncopation’ and ‘improvisation’ but none of these characteristics can be categorized as black music.
He further argues that the consideration of black music is a matter of stereotyping which can be related to racism or ethnicity. Ref: longhorns page 118-122. Oliver on the other hand has a sociological approach to his point of view; he argues that ‘black music’ would be noninsured as such if Its listeners, performers and creators accept It. With such an approach, problems may arise from the listeners. For example, Michael Jackson can be seen from the listeners’ point of view as white or black.
This type of perception can be meaningless to some but when it comes to the origin of Jackson’s music and the way his music is released and sold, it will not only show the characteristics of his music but also to the political connection It has. Political help;hop was developed In the early sass’s, which was Inspired by the ‘political preachers’ in the late sass’s. Artists began using politics in their music to send out messages to the world and to cause awareness to the people. One of the best groups known for their political hip-hop is Public Enemy. Rose, 1990) Public Enemy was one of the most influential and controversial groups in the history of hip- hop In the late sass’s. Public Enemy was created In 1982 by the current leader of the group Carlton Rhododendron also known as ‘Chuck D’. (Longhorns, 2007) Chuck was a DC at a student radio station in Delphi university; this is where the group started to form. He then met Hank Shockley collectively known as ‘Bomb Squad in addition to Keith Shockley, and Eric Sadler’ and Bill Stephens the former executive of ‘Defy Jam’.
All three of them shared common thoughts, the love of hip-hop and their political views. With these thought in mind all three of them became close friends. (Longhorns, 2007) With the help of Stephens, Chuck accepted to sign on with Rick Rubin (the co-founder and the producer of Defy Jam) and from there, Chuck assigned the Bomb squad as the chief producer, Stephens as the publicist and recruited a DC called Terminator X and a fellow member in the Nation of the Islam Professor Grief as a choreographer.
He also asked an old friend of his, William Dragoon known as Flavor Flat who functioned as a court Jester to Chuck to help out. In 1987, with the formation of the Public Enemy the first album was released You! , Bum Rush The Show. (Longhorns, 2007) thoughtful lyrics. One of their best-known songs and one that can be used, as a great example for their type of music and political views is ‘Fight The Power’ from the album ‘Do the Right Thing.
In this song the Public Enemy encourages the people to be aware and to stay cautious and to fight for their rights. Furthermore, they fight schism and shows their pride in being black (much like other African American Groups from the time, and indeed today) as he mentions in his song (Fight The Power) ‘Elvis was a hero to most, But he never meant to me you see, Straight up racist that sucker was, Simple and plain, Mother—- him and John Wayne, Cause I’m Black and I’m proud… In the film He Got Game, directed by Spike Lee (another proud African American whose films preached the same messages and whose movies heavily featured Public Enemy’s music) the group wanted their music in the film (and the film itself) to, per he words of Marcus Reeves in his book Somebody Scream! , “give the young ‘nuns a sense of history, an awakening, a challenge to the status quo. ” (Reeves, Somebody Scream! ,2008) Initially, Public Enemy music was not very popular with black people. Slowly but surely hardcore hip-hop fans and critics began to take note, as Chucks “poetic approach to socially aware hardcore rap… .NET beyond ghetto reported on poverty and crime into the arena of downright speaking up and out against the powers that be. ” (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) In some songs, like Rorer goanna get yours” Chucks lyrics consisted of criticism of the government and the police (“No cop goat right to call me a punk / Take this ticket-go to hell and stick it”). Public Enemy’s music did not only restrict itself to domestic critiques. For example, songs like ‘Timeout’ Chucks lyrics take shots at the oppressive South African regime of the time (“I’m a MAC Protector-US defector / South African government wrecker”).
Over time Public Enemy success with black youths in college and high school grew partly because of the noticeable animosity and lack of support the government at the time showed toward black progress. Public Enemy’s lyrics in the song “Bring The Noise” also helped to increase the popularity of the declining Nation Of Islam amongst the black youth and the admired Louis Franken. Public Enemy’s confrontational image began to draw poorly light from members of the press and media, and in “Don’t believe the hype” Chuck retorted, “They claim that I’m a criminal/ Clear all the madness, I’m not a racist/ Preach to teach to all. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) With the release of the famous album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” Public Enemy hit the history of music, redefining the meaning of hip-hop artistically, socially and politically. Public Enemy’s song “Raising Hell” was a blast to the crowd that caused the black people to reunite their spirits for the good of the African American youth. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) On May 1989, professor Grief (Louis Farmhand) was interviewed by “The Washington Times” to explain the reasoning behind his refusal to wear gold.
The reason he gave was that Israel was supporting a racist government and that government was helping what he named an ‘apartheid regime’. Furthermore, he and spreading evil in the world. Pareses, 1989) Initially, Professor Griffins sentence did not incite much outrage when it was run in “The Washington Times” but when he restated his sentence in another popular publication, “The Village Voice” Jewish groups began to take notice and started to protest against Public Enemy. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! 2008) Public Enemy started to come under deep scrutiny in the media, Defy Jam, CBS, from its parent company as well as Griffins co-members Stephens and Shockley. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) Not wanting to Jeopardize Public Enemy even more, Chuck had to deal with this problem himself. Not being able to satisfy both parties Chuck had to fire Grief since he was the cause of the debate and had to apologize for all the offended. In the eyes of the fans, Chucks reaction to the situation was a total defeat to the Public Enemy; Public Enemy grew even weaker and weaker to the responses of the critics. Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) The fans that had for years supported them and their message began to doubt whether or not Public Enemy could really solve the black youth’s problems and whether or not Public Enemy could provide any sort of underground political leadership to their group of people. However on the first of August, Chuck announced the reuniting of the group with Professor Grief rejoining the group with the new title “Supreme Allied Chief of Community Relations”. Chuck and the group released a new album called “Welcome to the Terrorism”. Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) In it he responded to the Grief controversy and other songs covered the summer murder of a sixteen year old child and the Virginia Beach riot, where in his lyrics he says (“First nothings worse than a mother’s pain”) and the (“The Greek weekend speech I speak”) as well as protesting the Jewish leaders, he speaks (“Crucifixion ant no fiction… Told a Arab get off the rag… ” Again though this caused another rage in the streets of New York and Brooklyn from the people of both sides: the African Americans and the Jews.
The rage however did not slow the movement of the Public Enemy. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) On the contrary, Public Enemy published their third album “Fear of a Black Planet”, an album that made the Top ten in Billboards for the first time. This time Public Enemy stressed on the fear of the white people towards the African Americans and concentrate on the effect growing ‘miscegenation’ on the white gene group. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) With the release of the fourth album “Can’t trust it”, Chucks focus was on urban black America.
In addition, Chuck attacked the drug dealers concentrating on the one’s with the Afro eccentricity. Furthermore, Chuck and flat disgraced black people who say the word “N—–“to their friends in the song “Shut Me Down” and “l Don’t Want Be Called You N—. ” (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) With Public Enemy’s fifth release “Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age” Public Enemy again showed Chucks vision of making rap music beyond Just music but also as a means of making the black audience socially conscious and racially aware. (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008)
Public Enemy have succeeded in making their political activities a “performance art, turning rap into black steel folks, needed whenever they were caught in the ever- present hour of chaos. ” (Reeves, Somebody Scream! , 2008) and indeed, all over the world . Chuck has spread to the world his ideas of politics and race as exhibited by his powerful lyrics in all of Public Enemy’s albums. With his great leadership of the group and his intense lyrics, Chuck has succeeded in spreading awareness and consciousness not only to his race but to all races around the globe. His message continues to live on today, as it will for the foreseeable future.