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Style & Culture

Trip Down Memory Lane: Politics a major theme for Public Enemy

Politics have always been incorporated into music, and hip-hop is no exception.

Rap group Public Enemy is probably the best example of a group known for using politics as a theme for songs. Made up of MC Chuck D, hype-man Flavor Flav, “Minister of Information” Professor Griff, and DJ Terminator X, the group formed in the mid-1980s and was signed soon after.

Professor Griff is an interesting member of the group, as his sole purpose is to interview on behalf of the rest of the group and be their public representative. Flavor Flav, whose catchphrase “Yeah boy!” is present in many Public Enemy songs, is probably the most famous member. Although he was a hype-man for Chuck D most of the time, Flavor Flav occasionally picked up the mic and tried his hand at rapping.

Famed producer Rick Rubin discovered the group after hearing Chuck D’s song “Public Enemy Number One” from Chuck D’s mixtape.

In 1987, Public Enemy released its first album, titled “Yo! Bum Rush The Show,” on Def Jam Records. The album received positive reviews and spawned two singles. The first was “Public Enemy Number One,” the same song that turned Rick Rubin on to the group. From the beginning, Chuck D announced his arrival with assertive lyrics like “Well, I’m all in, put it up on the board / Another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared.” It appears that even in the beginning, Chuck had a feeling his mouth would get him in trouble.

A year later, Public Enemy released its sophomore effort, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.” This album produced five singles, including the popular track “Bring the Noise.” The song was eventually remixed, incorporating a heavy-metal background provided by Anthrax to accompany Chuck D’s rapping. The album also showcases Public Enemy’s political side with tracks like “Party for Your Right to Fight,” which closes the album and references the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Public Enemy’s third record, “Fear of a Black Planet,” was released in 1990 and featured their most famous song, “Fight the Power.” The song took shots at the entertainment legends Elvis Presley and John Wayne. Like it’s predecessor, the album generated a total of five singles.

Chuck D and Flavor Flav both have careers outside of Public Enemy. Chuck D released a solo album in 1996 titled “Autobiography of Mistachuck.” Flavor Flav has had a career in reality television, including his own show titled “Flavor of Love,”and has also released a solo album in 2006. Since its debut in 1987, Public Enemy has released a total of 14 studio albums. This past year was a big one for the group as they have released two records: “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp” and “The Evil Empire of Everything.” The latter album was released in October of this year.