Public Enemy
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and
Fear of a Black Planet
Reissues with liner notes by the Roots' ?uestlove
and Wax Poetics' Andre Torres


You Want Six Dollars For WHAT?

Do you remember the late eighties? For your sake I hope not. With the exception of a few bright spots such as Big Black, Jesus and Mary Chain and Pop Will Eat Itself it was a barren wasteland of nicey nice and we had to take cold comfort in the likes of The Primitives. When the nice jingles of floppy haired ARSES too floppy and happily jaded to care about politics is what you have to pretend is good enough it's a sad lookout. Oh, there was Half Man Half Biscuit and Stump too, of course. They were great. But over all it seemed that British youth was defeated. Thatcher had done us in and all we could do was to stare glassily into the distance and tap our toes to the likes of The La's. That is until the Manics came along to save us and to remind us that passion was not a four letter word. And so it was to America that the likes of me had to turn. First I fell for Ice T who, I now admit, wasn't really very good despite being a smart fellow. And then NWA just lit me on fire. They seemed like the rap equivalent of a way more talented Exploited. The world's most dangerous group made me want to yell 'fuck everything' and burn the world to the ground. But I wanted more. I wanted that anger and that hate and I wanted depth and political clout and venom and fucking big clocks and a whole new look and sound that would stop me looking backwards to the Clash and have me looking forwards instead. The rap equivalent of The Exploited wasn't enough. I needed intelligence too. It was a desparate time. We needed saving and Fight The Power saved us.



I'm no musical purist and I don't think albums have to be listened to in isolation so, if you don't have a lot of PE or none at all then Fear of a Black Planet is a great place to start. Thirty eight tracks for the super low price of some money or a dodgy download. The super low price of some money in a currency would be worth it for Burn Hollywood Burn alone. The thirty seven bonus tracks are great too though. Everybody loves Fight The Power, of course and I Can't Do Nuttin' For You Man has become a house favorite around our place ('Your mother got gold nipples' seems more Goldie Looking Chain than Public Enemy but that mix of brevity and levity is what kept PE going. They were a party with politics and minus either element they would have sunk). Many have slated Flavor Flav but, as well as being the musical talent of the group, he also kept the party element of the group and prevented them becoming preachy.

Without PE there might have been no Coup and for that we can give thanks. I don't really know quite how to follow that or if I even need to. Anyone who remembers my ranting review style from the heady days of the mid to late nineties when Phil Rose Esq shouted pointlessly into the void will know that I know nothing at all about reviewing or even music but I know what I like. And I like this. Of course, the only reason to release an album such as this is to attempt to stir up interest in the group and the idea of a 'collection' or even an 'album' in these days of Pick'n'mix track downloads seems odd. But that's merely to shoot the medium and does not speak to the quality of the music. But, in the words of Mr Vicious, "Ah, who cares about the music?" Well, I do, of course but at its best music is simply a delivery system for a message and what a message we got from this, perhaps the last truly rebellious band to come out of the States. In these days of ultra conformist right wing bollocks on this (the American) side of the pond where the whole debate is who is doing partiotism right and who supports the troops right, to hear ANYONE (apart from The Coup, damn, forgot about them!) saying a line like "They wanted me for their army or whatever, picture me giving a damn? I said "never!"" is now so beyond the apparent bounds of reason in this society as to still sound utterly fresh. America loves its rebels but only mall-ready, reasonable rebels. Public Enemy were not only unreasonable but they were black and they committed the ultimate sin of appealing to middle class kids in the suburbs. Much fucking good it did them...

Phil Rose Esq



Gratuitous pic of The Coup